Public lands should be free lands
The Recreation Fee Demonstration Program due to expire this year has been extended to 2004, and the caps that limited it to only a few national forests around the country are removed. Now Congressman Scott McInnis is co-sponsoring a bill to make the fees a permanent feature, this year, before opposition rises even more.
This program, which collects fees from people to enter our national forests for hiking, picnicking or just to drive and enjoy the beauty, is hotly contested. People in the affected mountain states have chosen to go to jail and have their access to national forests denied them rather than pay the $2 to $5 asked-for entry.
Our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands, along with human amenities like love, are what parents have in mind when we tell our children that the best things in life are free. This has not gone unnoticed by entertainment industry corporations. United in the 1980s into the American Recreation Coalition, it has intensified its successful lobbying for recreation fees.
Though chronic budget cuts to the national forest system have left it in an unhealthy condition, we continue to hold funds enough to subsidize the often-polluting practices of extractive industries. We build roads, license the harvesting of valuable resources for pennies on the dollar and pay to clean up messes left behind.
One third of the wages of all working Americans is paid yearly to manage and maintain our national heritages and an honest way of life. Often these wages are maintained intentionally low for reason of foreign policy. If required, we can generate a fantastic amount of money simply by raising the minimum wage and ceasing the subsidizing of corporations for income tax, environmental cleanups, or financing bankruptcy thefts.
I would contend that we are able to manage our national forests in a healthy manner without building this mammoth barrier to the soul fulfilling enjoyment of our natural heritage. Please call Rep. McInnis at 202-225-4761, (fax) 202-226-0622, and place your opinion on an issue that will affect our children’s children’s children.
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