The Recreation Fee Program
In 2004, Congress
passed the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA), which allows
the government to charge a fee for recreation use of public lands managed
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Bureau of Reclamation, the
National Park Service, The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collects fees at more than 100 national wildlife refuges, including 31 wildlife refuges that charge an entry fee. At least 80% of all fees collected at a refuge are reinvested back into that refuge to provide quality recreational facilities and opportunities to our visitors. The remaining 20% is used in that geographic region. Each refuge that collects a fee posts a notice at the collection site informing the public of the use or anticipated use of recreation fees collected during the previous year.
FEDERAL LANDS RECREATION ENHANCEMENT ACT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Recreation Enhancement Act?
The Recreation Enhancement Act allows the government to charge a fee for
recreational use of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management
(BLM), the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Fish and Wildlife Service
(FWS), the National Park Service (NPS) and the Forest Service (USFS).
It is important to note that bureaus and agencies will not charge fees
for all recreational use of public lands.
The majority of the fees collected will be reinvested back into the collection
site to enhance visitor services and reduce the backlog of maintenance
needs for recreation facilities such as trail maintenance, toilet facilities,
boat ramps, hunting blinds, and interpretive signs and programs. Bureaus
and agencies may not use recreation fees to pay for biological monitoring
of threatened and endangered species.
The law differentiates among the participating bureaus and agencies. The
NPS and FWS units in the National Wildlife Refuge System may charge entrance
fees. The other participating bureaus and agencies may charge "standard
amenity fees" where specific criteria are met. The FWS and NPS may also
charge "expanded amenity fees" for use of a specialized facility, equipment,
or service. The other bureaus and agencies may charge "expanded amenity
fees" in those areas where additional amenities are provided, such as
boat launches, rental cabins, electrical hookups, dump stations, enhanced
interpretive services, reservations, transportation, swimming facilities,
and picnicking. A special recreation permit fee will also be allowed for
specialized recreation uses such as group activities, recreation events
and motorized vehicle use.
The Act provides for public input into the development of the recreation
fees through the establishment of Recreation Resource Advisory Committees
for all lands managed by the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land
Management. All participating bureaus and agencies will involve the public
in many aspects of the Recreation Fee Program.
How will this affect my usage of lands managed by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service?
The only change has been to cancel the entrance fee at Gavin's Point National
Fish Hatchery in South Dakota. The Act does not allow hatcheries to collect
entrance fees, though hatcheries may charge expanded amenity fees.
What is the America the Beautiful Pass?
The Act instructs Federal Land Management Agencies to develop a pass that
covers the entrance fee and standard amenity fee for Federal recreational
lands. It replaces the current Golden Eagle, Golden Age, and Golden Access
Passports, as well as the National Parks Pass. This pass will let visitors
gain entrance to federal lands managed by the five participating bureaus
or agencies that are open to recreation opportunities . Existing National
Park passes, Golden Eagle, Golden Age, and Golden Access Passports will
be grand fathered in under their existing benefits and will remain valid
until expired. These passes will continue to be sold until the new pass
is available. Site specific and regional passes such as the Adventure
Pass for National Forests in Southern California will remain valid and
will continue to be available under this Act.
The pass will have a senior and disabled iteration, with similar benefits
to the Golden Age and Golden Access Passports. Details of the pass still
need to be determined and the pass will not be available until 2007.
I use my Duck Stamp to visit refuges now. Will I still be
able to use my Duck Stamp?
You will still be able to use your Duck Stamp to gain entrance to refuges.
Thanks to the sale of the Federal Duck Stamp, more than $670 million has
been generated to purchase or lease over 5.2 million acres of waterfowl
habitat in the United States. Your support of the Duck Stamp program helps
refuges provide habitat for thousands of migratory birds, endangered and
threatened species, mammals, and amphibians and results in recreational
opportunities on many refuges.
Will more refuges charge recreation fees now that the Recreation
Enhancement Act has been passed?
Yes, we already have some sites and new activities that want to join the
Recreation Fee Program. Since the Act also repealed the collection authorities
under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act and those under the Emergency
Wetlands Resources Act, some sites that collected recreation fees under
those authorities may join the Recreation Fee Program.
Where does the money go from the recreation fees?
At least 80% of all fees collected at a specific location will remain
available for expenditures at that location, with the remaining balance
used rsegion-wide. In FWS, three regions adopted the 80% - 20% split.
The other four regions return 100% of the collections back to the collecting
sites. The agencies will post notices at each recreation fee area informing
the public of the use or anticipated use of recreation fees collected
at that site during the previous year.