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Our View: Say nay or pay

It’s no wonder the American public feels like the federal government railroads taxpayers.

Lawmakers casually pass permanent legislation that hits us in the pocketbook before we know what hit us.

If one Ohio congressman has his way, public land enthusiasts might as well pack their wallets along with a picnic lunch when they head out to enjoy the great outdoors.



Just last week, U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, an Ohio Republican, took maximum advantage of the taxpaying public by undermining the entire lawmaking process when he slipped a “rider” into the 3,000-page omnibus bill that would permanently extend the controversial Fee Demo Program.

The program, introduced in 1996 as a two-year program, has been extended every year since. The program originally was introduced to test the application of recreation fees that are reinvested in recreation areas on federal lands and used to maintain and improve natural resources, recreation facilities and services. In theory, the plan seems logical — it costs money to maintain public lands, and the money has to come from somewhere.



However, if the current legislation passes Congress, this bill that affects every American who hikes Mount Evans, visits a national park or uses BLM or Forest Service lands, will have happened in a fly-by-night manner at the hands of a congressman who has no public lands in his congressional district.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the entire program for taxpayers is that this legislation was introduced and passed Congress without one public comment hearing. This type of action by a public official not only seems unfair but also pretty shady. After all, taxpayers already own the lands in question, making the argument in favor of the federal government double dipping pretty weak, which is probably why Regula is attempting to pass the bill in such a quiet fashion.

“The way this was done was just not right,” said Kitty Benzar, cofounder of the No-Fee Coalition. “We should have open public discussion if we’re going to charge to use public lands.”

This legislation will meet the agenda of one congressman, but every Moffat County resident will ultimately foot the bill — literally. If approved, the bill means fees will continue to access such places as Freeman Reservoir and Dinosaur National Monument, but could ultimately mean fees to access any National Forest or BLM lands.

Take the time to notify your congressman so that voices are heard before the upcoming lame duck session. If you don’t, you’ll most certainly pay for it.


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