Increased Revenues from Ski Areas Bypass National Forests

Increased Revenues from Ski Areas Bypass National Forests

Colorado ski areas are enjoying a record year, but the national forests where they operate aren’t sharing the rewards. Here’s a good example, recently documented by The Aspen Times. The 11 ski resorts on the White River National Forest paid $20 million in government fees in fiscal 2016 – about $4 million more than the hosting forest’s entire budget – but all that money went to the U.S. Treasury instead of the forest. So did winter permit fees from other ski areas in national forests – an estimated $35 million in 2016.

At the same time, the White River National Forest has been forced to reduce its budget and staff, including staff members who work with the ski industry. Fewer staff members are available to review ski area applications for improved facilities, preventing improvements like lift replacements or additional warm weather amenities to accommodate activities like hiking, mountain biking, sightseeing and more.

Allowing national forests to keep ski area fees is just one of many good ideas that could result from a modernization of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). FLREA allows federal recreation sites to retain 80% of entrance and recreation fees, with the remaining 20% flowing to the parent agency, augmenting congressionally appropriated funds. FLREA generated more than $375 million for federal land and water management agencies in 2016 alone – but it can clearly do more to address infrastructure challenges – and to enhance public enjoyment of the nation’s lands and waters.

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