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The Interior Appropriations Conference Committee agreed to a compromise
Oct. 11 that will extend the U.S. Forest Service Recreation Fee
Demonstration Program for two more years. The “test” program,
originally set to terminate in 1999 had been extended twice prior to
last night’s congressional action. The program was to have expired on
Sept. 30, 2002.
“Yesterday’s decision by Congress was a major, though not unexpected,
set-back to the large and growing anti-fee-demo movement — a movement
consisting of 230 organizations and millions of Americans in all 50
states,” said anti-fee demo advocate Scot Silver of Wild Wilderness.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C.,
Secretary of Interior, Gale Norton, and both leaders of the House
Resources Committee have taken actions to create opportunities for
Americans to “reconnect” with public lands in these tense times. Norton
pronounced that Veteran’s Day 2001 will be a “Fee-Free” weekend at all
of America’s National Parks. Similarly, Rep. Hansen (R-Utah) and Rep
Rahall (D-Virg.) introduced legislation to issue Fee-Free “Hope Passes”
to the families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Congress does appear, at some level, to understand that the charging
of recreation user fees has created an impediment to the enjoyment of
America’s public lands,” said Silver. “Congress, unfortunately, does
not seem to understand that all Americans would derive benefit from
being able to visit their National Parks and Forests and to reconnect
with nature and to regain their rootedness in the soil of our nation.”