Abolish user fees

  Recreationists hate fees for all the right reasons (HCN, 1/19/04: A moment of truth for user fees). Fees will inexorably lead down the slippery slope to privatization and commercialization of our public lands. Fees are undemocratic, exclusionary, a regressive double tax and flat-out wrong.

The Forest Service fee program takes in approximately $37 million a year (gross) and the BLM $6 million. Remember, from gross you must subtract what it costs to administer fees. It costs the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho 75 cents for salaries, signs, gas for the pickups that check trailheads, paperwork, "warning notices," etc., to collect $1 in fees.

The solution to chronic underfunding of recreation infrastructure, national monument management, and Forest Service recreation management is for Congress to step up to the plate and redeem its crystal-clear responsibility to adequately fund the public lands. On Jan. 22, Congress sent to the president a $328.5 billion spending bill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., estimates there was $11 billion in pure pork in the bill. $165 billion has already been spent in Iraq. There must be a meager few billion spent on recreation on public lands.

Scott Phillips
Hailey, Idaho

The writer is a retired Forest Service professional in outdoor recreation management.