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Adventure Pass

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May 27, 2003 05:20PM
Article Published: Monday, May 26, 2003 - 6:25:48 PM PST

GAO: forest fees flawed


The U.S. Forest Service does not keep accurate records of what it costs to administer the fee program that includes the Adventure Pass, though the money appears to be well spent, according to a recent General Accounting Office report.

Started in 1997, the Adventure Pass is basically a parking permit. It must be displayed on vehicles used for recreation on the four Southern California national forests, including the San Bernardino and Angeles national forests.

Adventure Pass is part of a larger national effort called the Fee Demonstration Program in which several federal agencies, including the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service, were allowed to charge fees to bring more money to their declining budgets.

The report by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, focused on the Forest Service, because its fees have been the most controversial. Unlike the National Park Service, which has almost always imposed fees for admittance, the Forest Service had never charged fees for general recreational use of its lands.

Not everyone's a fan.

"I just think the whole thing stinks," said Crestline resident Allan Bostic. "We already pay enough taxes."

And there are questions.

"This year Congress must decide the future of the fee demo on our national forests. The data revealed by the recent GAO report show this to be an incredibly inefficient means of raising funds for public lands," Alasdair Coyne, of Ojai-based Keep the Sespe Wild, said in a written statement.

But thanks to the roughly $1 million a year brought in by the Adventure Pass, the San Bernardino National Forest has been able to add portable toilets, make sure existing toilets are properly maintained and accessible to the disabled, remove graffiti and keep campgrounds clean, said Ruth Wenstrom, forest spokeswoman.

"I don't get phone calls anymore asking "Why is the forest a dump?' " she said.

Nationwide, the Fee Demonstration Program has brought in about $900 million since it was authorized by Congress in 1996 on a trial basis. The program has been extended several times and Congress will consider making it permanent.

The GAO report cited the San Bernardino forest as an example of incomplete reporting of costs because it provides a $1 discount to vendors.

The Adventure Pass costs $5 a day, or $30 for a year. It's available at many sporting goods stores and shops near the mountains. The retailers who offer them get the day passes from the Forest Service for $4.

Wenstrom said the retailers need some incentive to sell the pass, and the Forest Service reports only the $4 in its accounting.

The report said the $1 discount should be counted as a cost.

For the four Southern California forests, which also include the Cleveland and the Los Padres national forests, the Adventure Pass has brought in $15.2 million since the program started. The cost of collecting the money is 21 percent or $3.2 million, not including the vendor discount.

Adventure Pass

katrina island 1294May 27, 2003 05:20PM

Re: Adventure Pass

Free our Forests 1097June 02, 2003 10:33AM

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