Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
CONTACT: Frank Quimby
For Immediate Release:June 15, 2004
Fee Demo Program Improves Visitor Facilities
And Services at National Recreation Sites

(WASHINGTON) - Modest entrance and user fees at national parks, forests, and recreational areas have provided an important source of supplemental funding to address deferred maintenance, visitor services, and other operating needs.

Those are some of the major findings of the annual progress report on the Recreational Fee Demonstration program for fiscal year 2003. The report, sent to congressional leaders on June 7, details figures for visitation, revenue, obligations, and cost of collection. It also contains examples of projects that improve visitor facilities and services, administrative efforts to streamline the program, data trends, and other program updates. This is the seventh joint report to Congress.

"Clearly, the Fee Demo program continues to allow our national recreation areas to maintain and improve their facilities and operations, without discouraging visitation," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in announcing the release of the report. "Just as clearly, much of the progress that has been made is due to the outstanding cooperation among the participating agencies."

Under the Fee Demo program, Congress authorized the Department of the Interior's National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture Forest Service to test new fees across the spectrum of recreation sites they manage. The Departments are authorized to retain all revenues from the Fee Demo program, and must use at least 80 percent of the funds to improve the sites where the fees are collected.

As of Sept. 30, 2003, 637 sites were participating in the program, including 236
NPS sites, 187 BLM areas, 109 FWS refuges, and 105 USDA Forest Service sites. Congress has extended the Fee Demo program through Dec. 31, 2005, with the revenues collected available through FY 2008. Legislation pending in Congress would make the program permanent.

Among the report's major findings, aggregate visitation to Department of the Interior recreation sites in the Fee Demo program continues to be unaffected in any significant way by fees. Total visitation to Interior fee and non-fee sites has remained relatively constant at about 360 million.

The program provides an important source of supplemental revenue to enhance visitor facilities and services at participating sites. FY 2003 Fee Demo revenues for the NPS were $123.5 million; BLM revenues were $10.3 million; FWS revenues were $3.8 million; and USDA Forest Service revenues were $38.8 million.

Using Fee Demo revenues to fund deferred maintenance needs and provide visitor services remains a high priority. In FY 2003, the Departments obligated $192 million for projects designed primarily to address backlog maintenance needs, improve visitor services, meet outstanding health and safety needs, and protect and preserve resources.

Interior agencies obligated about $155 million, while the USDA Forest Service obligated $36.8 million. Of the total FY 2003 obligations, 53 percent was for maintenance (deferred and routine) projects; 12 percent for projects to improve visitor services; and 11 percent for resource protection projects.

The projects accomplished with Fee Demo revenues are numerous and diverse and include partnerships with states and gateway communities that promote tourism and result in better service for visitors. (The report, which includes examples of these projects, is online at Recfees/RECFEESHOME.html.)

Interagency coordination has continued in a number of critical areas, including the establishment of joint fee-free days, developing a common reservation system, and establishing a Washington and Oregon Recreation Pass program.

The average cost of collection for agencies during FY 00-03 remained constant at 20 percent of gross fee revenue (including revenue from the National Parks Pass and transportation fees.) The cost of collection for NPS was constant at about 22 percent; for FWS, the cost decreased from 19.3 percent in FY 02 to 13.9 percent in FY 03; for BLM, the cost decreased from 22.3 percent in FY 02 to 18.6 percent in FY 03; for the Forest Service, the cost decreased from 16.3 percent in FY 02 to 14.1 percent in FY 03.



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