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December 17, 2004

By Elizabeth Auster, Cleveland Plain Dealer Bureau

Cleveland, Ohio

http://www.cleveland.com <http://www.cleveland.com/>

To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected]

Washington, D.C. - In Ohio, he is known as a powerful but genial
congressman who has long had a soft spot for the wide-open spaces of the
Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the cattle farm he calls home.

Out West, though, Rep. Ralph Regula has a different reputation these
days among some outdoorsy types. They accuse the Republican from Navarre
of using a sneaky move last month to pass legislation that will force
nature lovers to "pay through the nose" for the foreseeable future to
visit federally owned recreation areas.

At issue is a measure that Regula, a senior member of the House
Appropriations Committee, attached to a massive federal spending bill
that recently became law.

Regula's provision extends for 10 more years a controversial pilot
program begun in 1996 that allows the government to charge visitors fees
at recreation areas run by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land
Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.


Regula, who wrote the 1996 legislation, defended his move to extend the
fees in a letter posted Thursday on his congressional Web site,
www.house.gov/regula/.

He said the fees have generated more than $1 billion, allowing the
government to perform much-needed maintenance on deteriorating public
lands.

"For the price of less than a movie ticket, visitors are able to enjoy
cleaner facilities, well-maintained trails and an overall better
recreation experience," he wrote.

An aide to Regula said fees vary widely depending on the facility and
activity, ranging from as low as $1 to $20 or more.

Opponents of the fees say they are infuriated by the legislation. Kitty
Benzar, co-founder of the Colorado-based Western Slope No-Fee Coalition,
said Thursday that westerners would happily sacrifice some maintenance
improvements to quit having to pay fees to take hikes and engage in
other recreational activities on popular lands that they once could use
freely. In Colorado, she said, many counties consist mostly of federally
owned land.

"These are our back yards in the West," she said. "This is like being
charged a fee to enter your own house."

Robert Funkhouser, president of the coalition, blasted Regula's move in
a recent news release, calling it a "despicable" act and "an abuse of
position" because the fee legislation was not voted on separately by the
full House or Senate before being attached to the larger spending bill.

Funkhouser and other opponents of the fees argue that charging people to
visit public lands puts nature lovers in the position of paying twice to
enjoy scenic beauty -- once through taxes that support public lands,
then again through fees.

The Denver Post, in a recent editorial, called Regula's move "lawmaking
at its worst."

"The proposal never received even one public hearing and was rammed into
law by a congressman who has no public lands in his district," the
editorial said.

Though Regula helped create the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it's not
in his district.

Lori Rowley, Regula's chief of staff, said the charge that his
legislation received no public hearing was "totally false." She said
Regula's bill was the subject of a hearing in May by a House
subcommittee. In addition, she said, multiple hearings have been held on
the effectiveness of the fee program in past years.

Though the fee program has been controversial from the start, Regula has
received some Western support for his approach. An editorial earlier
this year in another Denver newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, urged
Congress to pass Regula's legislation. The editorial argued that it is
only fair for people who use public facilities to pay more than people
who don't.


Copyright 2004, The Plain Dealer.


http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/110327983
3222531.xml
 

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Discussion Starter #2
http://www.idahopress.com/articles/2004/12/09/opinion/letters/1207-opini
on_guest_2.txt


Fight adoption of Recreation Access Tax

By Ron Mitchell

If you enjoy your right to camp, hunt, fish, birdwatch, boat or just
watch a sunset on Idaho's public lands, you need to protect that right
now.

The issue: Congress is about to make permanent the Recreation Access Tax
(RAT) that requires you to pay a fee at campgrounds, trailheads, boat
ramps, picnic sites and even scenic overlooks. Sometime this week,
Congress will make a final vote on the RAT. Idahoans must contact our
congressmen if we hope to prevent its enactment.

The RAT, or "fee demonstration program" began in 1996 as a supposed
temporary "test" of public acceptance of new fees in addition to those
we already pay through appropriated tax dollars to maintain outhouses,
picnic tables, trails and boat ramps, etc. While the program has failed
in its promise to generate new funds - since it costs more to administer
than it takes in - it has succeeded in creating a new, ongoing funding
source for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
bureaucracies.

Almost immediately, the RAT degenerated into a mire of broken promises
and fiscal corruption. Congress' watchdog arm, the General Accounting
Office (GAO), investigated the RAT and released its report May 19, 2003,
in which it found a culture of deception and utter lack of
accountability (Report 03-470). The GAO found:

n Despite claims of cost-effectiveness, the Forest Service secretly
subsidized the RAT with $10 million of appropriated tax dollars.

n Costs of fee collections were hidden by concealing commissions paid to
private vendors.

n Despite claims fee money reduces facility maintenance backlog - the
very purpose of the RAT - the agency has no mechanism for measuring that
it has, and no idea how large it really is.

Overall, the fee program has never paid for itself, so the claim that 80
percent of revenues goes for facility improvement is absolutely false.

Outrage at this skullduggery has been widespread. Idaho Sen. Larry Craig
changed his opinion two years ago in light of the scandal, and now
opposes RAT. The state legislatures of Colorado, New Hampshire, Oregon
and California have passed resolutions calling for its elimination.

On June 25, 2003, The Twin Falls Times-News newspaper editor called for
civil disobedience by refusing to pay fees to end this program that "is
both insulting and dishonest." By forcing us to pay, then counting that
as proof we "support" fees is "the kind of coercive democracy you'd find
in Castro's Cuba," wrote the Times-News.

Both the towns of Ketchum and Hailey banned Forest Service banners
exhorting people to pay fees.

Last week, after a supposedly successful effort against RAT by Sens.
Craig (R-Idaho), Craig Thomas, (R-Wyo.), Conrad Burns, (R-Mont.), and
Pete Domenici, (R-N.M.), Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio). sneaked his RAT
bill (HR 3283) as a "rider" onto the Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The
RAT bill was never voted on by the Senate, where it stood little chance
of passing, so Regula resorted to the worst kind of backroom deal-making
for which Congress is infamous.

If RAT becomes law, it will become the first new tax of President Bush's
second term. And it will be an extraordinarily regressive tax that hits
working families the hardest.

To kill the RAT, readers should contact all members of our congressional
delegation immediately and leave a simple message: cut the RAT rider
from the appropriations bill. Contact them as follows: E-mail them
through their Web sites at www.crapo.senate.gov; www.craig.senate.gov;
www.house.gov/simpson; www.house.gov/otter. To phone, dial the
Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. For additional RAT
information, check www.wildwilderness.org.

n Ron Mitchell is the executive director Idaho Sporting Congress, Inc.
 

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concussed
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boo hiss

hi Mike!
im glad someone is on the ball about the rat bastards.
some of us can barely afford to wheel as it is.:mad:
 

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Discussion Starter #4
KRYPTO(dale) said:
hi Mike!
im glad someone is on the ball about the rat bastards.
some of us can barely afford to wheel as it is.:mad:
Dale, I love wheeling, camping, and enjoying the outdoors, especially in the Sierra. Pisses me off when our elected criminals fuck with the things I love. You can be an environmentalist and still love wheeling. I guess it's a fine line between access and abuse.

Later,
....Mike


From http://www.wildwilderness.org/docs/visions.htm

Vision One -- The Traditional

You bounce down a wash-boarded forest road for what seems like an eternity until you come upon your favorite lake. Once there, you are treated to a magnificent setting, a pit toilet, a few rustic tent sites and maybe a hiking trail that leads into the backcountry. The lake itself is totally peaceful and so pristine that you can easily imagine this is how it's always been. That afternoon you'll do a little fishing from your canoe, or maybe go for a swim, or a hike, or simply enjoy a picnic while you marvel at the setting. Later that evening you'll set up your tent, get out your cooler and camp stove and prepare for a night under the stars and a rare opportunity to become one with the Great Outdoors as nature provided them.


Vision Two -- Industrial Strength Recreation

You race down a freshly paved forest road in your $150,000 RV to that same lake; having first made reservations for a premium site at the new KOA campground. The old tent sites have all been freshly upgraded and turned into pull-through ribbons of concrete, complete with water, sewer, electrical and internet hookups (which you'll use to make your next night's reservations). Once you've leveled your motorhome, you unhitch the trailer, unload the ATVs, put on your helmet and go for a look around. Perhaps later on you'll play a quick round of golf before enjoying cocktails at the marina. You might even rent a jet-ski for an hour before returning to the RV and microwaving a quick dinner. After dark, if you've the energy, you may visit the amphitheater and listen to Ranger Rick's wilderness presentation.


Vision Three -- Industrial Tourism

You cruise down that same paved road, this time stopping frequently to explore hardened nature trails and to learn how active forest management creates wildlife habitat and maintains healthy ecosystems. After several stops you'll reach a parking lot and pay $19.95 to take the monorail to the lakeside visitor's center. At the center you'll purchase reserved seats for the 3:00 PM showing of "The Lake." While you wait you'll visit the gift shop, eat in the restaurant, capture a few Kodak moments at the Kodak Photo Stop and perhaps look at still more interpretive displays. Years later even with your memories, photos and home videos to remind you of that wonderful visit, you will note with sadness that nothing can begin to compare with having seen "The Lake" in person, on the giant IMAX screen.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
For anyone who lives in NorCal and remembers Union Valley Reservoir...

Used to go there with my friends. Had to drive a few miles on a fire road, then do some wheeling to get out to a little peninsula that stuck out into the lake. You could camp on the beach, have a bonfire, and enjoy being outdoors.

Go there now, it's all paved. Not only is it paved, but you have to pay. And you cannot leave the pavement. As a bonus, you get to have the company of lots of city dwellers in RV's.

My tax dollars at work. Keep it up you bastards.

Later,
....Mike
 

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concussed
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i can see it now....we'll have to join the sierra club.or be some kind of sub-chapter.:eek:
 

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Discussion Starter #7
KRYPTO(dale) said:
i can see it now....we'll have to join the sierra club.or be some kind of sub-chapter.:eek:
No way. Never.

It's a difficult position we are in. We want motorized access, but we don't want pavement and fees and developed campgrounds. It's a catch-22.

I will not support the Sierra Club, nor will I support the idea of paying to use public land.

Later,
....Mike
 
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