ARC Urges Senate Action to Aid Great Outdoors Visitors

ARC URGES SENATE ACTION TO AID GREAT OUTDOORS VISITORS

Washington, D.C. (September 16, 2015) – The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) has submitted testimony to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee expressing its support for the reauthorization and modification of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). The committee will hold a hearing September 17 on FLREA which can be watched here

FLREA – enacted in 2004 – authorizes the collection and retention of entrance and recreation fees for most of the major federal recreation providers: Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. While management of recreation on our federal lands remains funded primarily by appropriations of general funds, FLREA supplements those appropriations with more than $300 million annually in entrance and campground fees and other recreation-related charges.

ARC, a long-time and prominent advocate for recreation on public lands, played a key role in the development and implementation of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program (Fee Demo) in 1996 – the precursor to FLREA. In his testimony, ARC President Derrick Crandall emphasized that legislation like FLREA is crucial to the ability of tourists and recreationists – both domestic and international – to enjoy healthy, active outdoor fun on America’s public lands.

Crandall praised the Congress for utilizing fee legislation to support the improvement of recreation experiences on public lands – better trails and better campgrounds, easier access to public lands and waters and more interpretive and educational opportunities. “We testify today not in favor of fees, but in favor of Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement,” he said. “Fees are one important tool to help reach this goal – but FLREA fees are neither the only tool nor a goal in themselves.”

He explained that ARC had worked with a large and diverse coalition of recreation, conservation and tourism organizations to develop a series of core principles to guide federal recreation fee policy, which he outlined in his testimony. Among those principles were: the use of fees principally where they were collected; an increase in the convenience, efficiency and transparency of fee collection, including through the use of third-party fee collection; and the involvement of the public in fee programs. The testimony also called for the inclusion of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – the largest single provider of recreation experiences – under FLREA and endorsed reauthorization for a minimum of six years but not more than ten years.

ARC’s testimony also urged the Congress to consider a number of additional issues that are key to meeting the needs of 21st Century outdoor participants, including heightened visibility for the Great Outdoors. “We too often hear that advertising and promotion by federal land agencies are prohibited by law,” said Crandall. “We strongly disagree. . . And in fact we would appreciate this committee making it clear to the agencies that building awareness and promotion are legitimate uses of a portion of FLREA receipts.” He explained that ARC also supports adding provisions to FLREA that will enhance the ability of concessioners and permittees to provide appropriate visitor services in the Great Outdoors. And, finally, he outlined several ways to change fee policies affecting seniors and military personnel including free passes for all Purple Heart recipients. “We believe these changes would be valuable, win/win components for revitalized federal recreation programs that succeed in providing benefits to all Americans in the 21st Century,” he concluded.

ARC’s full testimony, including ideas for FLREA modifications, is available here. Archived footage of the Senate hearing can be found here.