Why does Congress starve public lands?

  Dear HCN,

Diane Pietrasanta says that her wilderness fee program in the Sierra should generate enough revenue to "pay five or six seasonal rangers where there would have been none" (HCN, 2/14/00: Land of the fee).

I think the real issue is not "should we charge fees?" or "how much should we charge?" but rather "why would there have been no seasonal rangers without the fee revenue?" In other words, why isn't Congress adequately funding outdoor recreation programs in the agencies?

The Forest Service's last RPA report for the period 1995-2000 estimated that recreation would account for 75% of the estimated Gross Domestic Product generated by the national forests in 2000. This contribution is far from being reflected in the agency budget.

Certain recreation user fees may hold some potential for good, but policy makers in Congress, and the agencies implementing those fee policies, need to address serious and valid concerns before deciding to make fee legislation permanent.

Steven Martin
Arcata, California

The writer is an associate professor in the Natural Resources Planning and Interpretation Department at Humboldt State University.