The newsletter of AMERICAN TRAILS -- NEW YEARS 1998

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Forest Service adds test sites for recreation fees

From USDA Forest Service

As part of a test to improve the quality of recreational experiences for visitors to national forests, the USDA Forest Service announced today the addition of 32 projects approved under the Recreation Fee Demonstration (RFD) Program. This brings the Forest Service's total number of projects under the program to 83 projects on over 100 sites across the country. The goal is to put the money to work where it's collected to maintain and improve recreation facilities.

"Fees that the Forest Service collects at these test projects are reinvested at the local site. We are finding this point is really attractive with the public" said Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck. Although Dombeck acknowledges that some people are opposed to paying fees to recreate on national forests, he says that feedback from this test has been largely positive once people recognize that they will see benefits to those sites.

"We know we're being held accountable&emdash; to the American public, to Congress, and to our employees. They want to see those benefits, and want proof they are being heard. Before test sites begin charging fees, we are making sure local managers work with their recreating communities for acceptance of the kinds and amounts of fees they are charging. And they must develop sound business plans to go along with the public acceptance."Forty-two Forest Service projects are now in operation. Benefits from the first 6 months of operation from those 42 projects include:

The RFD program, authorized by Congress in 1996 and 1997, allocates 80 percent of new fees collected between 1996 and 1999 to the recreation budget of the project where the fees are collected. The Forest Service will then distribute the remaining 20 percent among projects in that Forest Service region. This will help officials determine whether charging fees this way provides adequate funding for projects that do not produce enough revenue to help meet recreation needs. The Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is authorized for the Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

A listing of the Forest Service projects can be found on the Internet at: in the "What's New" section. For additional information, contact Linda Feldman (202) 205-1668 or the National Media Desk at (202) 205-1134.