Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nothing is free except the air, and I'm not so sure about that.

It was a beautiful fall day here in Oregon, and we were on our way to the coast. Some of the nicest days there are in the fall, and today was sunny and warm, so we took the scenic route along the Alsea River. Couldn't help but notice some new Forest Service Recreation signs and we pulled into one them to rest by the river. Well, needless to mention, the pay station and the set of rules to go with it pretty much dulled the whole experience. Might as well have gone to Disneyland. Anyways, we didn't pay the $6 even though we did get out of the car.

The name on the sign, American Land and Leisure, had the same smell of corporate government as the  "Healthy Forests Iniative" had during the George Duhbya Bush administration. Seems like nothing changes except for the appearance of the muppets.

Recreation Fees Big Part of Public Land Privatization Plan

While every major environmental group ignores the issue of runaway recreation fees on the National Forests, the Forest Service keeps creating more ways for us to pay more and partners with corporate interests that would like nothing better than to privatize public lands.

By Bill Schneider, 3-04-10

For five years, I’ve been railing against the recreational fee frenzy going on within the Forest Service, and after reading hundreds of comments (online and offline), I’ve noticed a common theme that I should address. Why, many commenters ask, am I so concerned about these relatively small, pay-for-play fees when we’re facing colossal environmental issues such as climate change, roadless lands protection, mining law reform, and energy development?

My answer is, this is big, too. The trend toward more and larger recreation fees fits perfectly with the plans of those who would like nothing better than to privatize our public lands.

I know it only seems like a measly $5 here or $25 there, but it’s the old nibbled-to-death strategy--you hardly notice it happening until one day, you realize you can no longer find an affordable place to hike or hunt or camp. Interestingly, I believe every major green group opposes privatizing public lands, yet not one does or says anything about this obvious attempt to do it. Go figure.

The primary voice among the green community comes from a tiny nonprofit called Wild Wilderness. Here, executive director Scott Silver serves the role of that proverbial voice in the wilderness nobody seems to hear.

Not a believer? Consider this admission by Warren Meyer, a board member of the National Forest Recreation Association (NFRA), the main lobby for private concessionaires. On his personal blog, he stated: “As many of you know, I am in the business of privatizing public recreation.”

That revealing quote is just one little gem in a massive treasure chest of documentation Silver has amassed on how recreation fees foreshadow public land privatization. I wish I had space for more of it here, but you can see it all on his website.

The privatization agenda was the vision of President Ronald Reagan and was first implemented by former FS Chief Dale Robertson with major help from the main lobby for privatization, the American Recreation Coalition (ARC). For the past 30 years, with the ARC and NFRA leading the way, private concessionaires have exerted increasing pressure upon the FS to privatize public recreation, and it’s working.

More, 3-04-10

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