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    Research Note


Visitor Fees in the National Park System:
A Legislative and Administrative History
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The National Park System Fee Dedication and Park Improvement Act of 1982

Rather than undergoing minor modification to remove the offending provision, the interagency "Recreation Fees and Improvements Act" was scrapped for a more modest proposal affecting only the National Park System. Drafted in the office of interior's Legislative Counsel, it was referred to the Park Service on June 28 for comment only. The new bill would partially supersede the fiscal 1981 Interior Appropriations Act provision by dedicating NPS entrance fee--but not user fee--receipts to a special appropriations account for "the repair, maintenance, and improvement of facilities, the provision of safety and services, and the restoration, protection, and preservation of natural and cultural resources, for the benefit and enjoyment of visitors to the National Park System." It contained authority for the Secretary to adjust entrance fees up and down within the range of inflation since 1972 (as if downward adjustment were a real option), to establish new entrance fees, and to suspend entrance fee collection when warranted. The draft transmittal letter included budgetary constraints among the factors justifying additional fee income for park funding. [8]

The Service's chief of legislation proposed that the bill also authorize an increase in the Golden Eagle ceiling and dedicate user fees as well as entrance fees to the special account for the purposes specified. "From a strategy standpoint," he noted, "the statement in the transmittal that because of budgetary constraints alternative funding, such as provided in this bill, is required for the parks plays directly into the hands of those who are afraid these fees will offset regular appropriations." [9] Minor language adjustments were made in response to the last comment, but nothing was done about the Golden Eagle or user fees.

Titled "National Park System Fee Dedication and Park Improvement Act of 1982," the bill was transmitted to the Congress on July 1. Senator McClure introduced it as S. 2758 on July 20, but no action on it appeared likely as the 97th Congress neared adjournment. [10]

Recognizing the inadequacy of the bill and the unlikelihood of its approval, the Service sought achievement of one of its purposes through another avenue. The NPS budget justification submitted to Congress for fiscal 1983 contained language to fully repeal the unwanted provision in the 1981 appropriations act so that all visitor fees could be returned to a special agency account. The proposal was under consideration in the congressional appropriations committees as this was written, but its chances appeared slim. [11]

NEXT> NPS Revenue Management Planning, 1982

8Memorandum, Mary Bradford to Russell E. Dickenson and James M. Lambe, June 28, 1982, with accompanying bill, WASO-170.

9Memorandum to Mary Bradford, June 29, 1982, WASO-170.

10Letters, Watt to George Bush and Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., July 1, 1982, WASO-170; Congressional Record, July 20, 1982, p. S8733.

11Personal conversations, C. Bruce Sheaffer, Oct. 18, 1982, and Ira E. Whitlock, Dec. 7, 1982.


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

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