On-line Book
cover to Visitor Fees
Cover Page











    Research Note


Visitor Fees in the National Park System:
A Legislative and Administrative History
National Park Service Arrowhead

The 1970 Land and Water Conservation Fund Act Amendment

With the support of the Interior Department, legislation was introduced in the new 91st Congress in 1969 to keep the Golden Eagle program, as it was now widely known, afloat. The principal Senate bill, S. 2315, would simply repeal the repealer in Public Law 90-401. Another Senate bill, S. 2197, would limit the program to areas under the Interior and Agriculture departments and raise the authorized fee from $7 to $10.

Interior's position was expressed in a letter by Acting Secretary Russell E. Train before the Senate Interior Committee's hearings in July:

This Department has had 4 years experience with the uniform Government-wide fee program. We believe that there are a number of factors to be considered, such as whether each individual seeking admission to an area should be required to obtain an entrance permit rather than pay a single charge covering all occupants of the purchaser's automobile. An additional factor is whether the fee should be based on the use a visitor makes of specific facilities rather than a flat-rate entrance fee....

Train cited the need for a full reevaluation of the program. He suggested that in the meantime it be extended for only one more year, until April 1, 1971, with the existing $7 maximum on the Golden Eagle. [13]

At the Senate hearings, Senators Henry M. Jackson of Washington and Wallace F. Bennett and Frank E. Moss of Utah spoke for extension and introduced supporting letters from the public. Some letters were evidently inspired by a campaign employing scare tactics. "We were told to write to our congressman about the following problem," said one. "We were told that this is our last year for the Golden Eagle and that all our camp grounds were to be turned over to concessions." Senator Alan Bible of Nevada backed the Golden Eagle increase to $10. Testifying for Interior, Assistant Secretary Harrison Loesch restated the need for a full-scale fee system study before doing more than extending the status quo, but he urged the repeal of Section 210 of the 1968 Flood Control Act that had allowed the Corps of Engineers to escape the program. [14]

S. 2315 was reported by the committee on September 9 with amendments reflecting that body's strong support for the Government-wide fee system. The committee bill would repeal the 1968 repealer without limit, authorize the Secretary of the Interior to use a percentage of fee revenues for promoting the program (originally prohibited), enable the Golden Eagle to be sold for $10, and repeal Section 210. The accompanying report cited "thousands of letters received from citizens throughout the Nation urging reconsideration of the action terminating the golden eagle and other fee programs next March." It restated the general policy of making recipients of specific services pay a reasonable share of the costs, and it expressed agreement with the idea that the public respects more and vandalizes less what it is required to pay for. [15]

The bill passed the Senate without opposition the next day and was sent on to the House. Unfortunately, Senator Fred Harris, a leading proponent of Section 210, had not been informed of its consideration, and the bill was recalled as a courtesy to him. The Oklahoma senator then proposed an amendment striking the repeal of Section 210. In response, Senator Frank Church proposed a new amendment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act prohibiting entrance fees at all Federal water areas and restricting user fees at such areas to highly developed facilities (excluding picnic areas, unmechanized boat launching ramps, etc.). Harris accepted the Church substitute, and the Senate repassed the bill with it on September 24. [16]

In response to a request from the House Interior Committee for Interior's comments on the Senate-passed bill, Under Secretary Russell Train expressed general support, opposing only the Church provision restricting fee collection at lakes and reservoirs. Representative Edmondson sharpened the issue by introducing a new bill prohibiting entrance fees for all recreational lands and waters under Federal jurisdiction. [17]

The House committee took a middle course, retaining the repealer of the interagency fee system in Public Law 90-401 but extending its effective date to December 31, 1971. It kept the Senate provision raising the Golden Eagle price to $10, and it added a requirement that the Secretary of the Interior should "complete a survey as to policy to be implemented with regard to entrance and user fees and report his findings to the Senate and House Committees on Interior and Insular Affairs" by February 1, 1971. The Senate's publicity authorization, its repealer of Section 210, and the Church amendment were all dropped. [18]

The committee's report, submitted April 13, 1970, argued against the indefinite extension voted by the Senate on the grounds that the interagency fee program was fatally flawed and required total revision:

The bill does not extend the golden eagle program indefinitely. In stead, it provides for its termination on December 31, 1971. This ex- tension is not intended to be interpreted as a waiting period for the present program to prove its value--that time has passed--instead, it is a period to work out, in detail, a worthwhile program equitable to recreationists and meaningful to the land and water conservation fund program.

A minority on the committee, including Edmondson and Representative Phillip Burton of California, submitted separate views, urging House amendment of the bill to delete the Golden Eagle price increase and prohibit entrance fees everywhere but "at national parks where collection of such fees is found both practical and desirable." [19]

The minority amendments failed on the House floor, and the House passed the bill in the form reported by the committee. The Senate subsequently concurred in the House-passed version of its bill, and President Richard M. Nixon approved the measure on July 7, 1970, making it Public Law 91-308. [20]

NEXT> Park Service Response: Camping Charges and Fee Study, 1969-1970

13Letter, Train to Sen. Henry M. Jackson, July 16, 1969, in U.S., Congress, Senate, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Golden Eagle Program, Hearings on S. 2315 et al., 91st Congress, 1st Session, July 17-18, 1969, pp. 2-3.

14Senate Golden Eagle Program Hearings, pp. 20-28.

15Senate Report 91-395.

16115 Congressional Record 24996-99, 25180, 25237, 25348-49, 26811.

17Letter, Train to Rep. Wayne N. Aspinall, Jan. 30, 1970, in House Report 91-1000, Apr. 13, 1970; H.R. 15745, 91st Congress, Feb. 5, 1970.

18House Report 91-1000.


20116 Congressional Record 20652-53; 84 Stat. 410.


Last Modified: Tues, Apr 4 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

National Park Service's ParkNet Home