In response to an email November 10, the park responded: “Comments were forwarded to our regional office and on to Washington. We have not heard from Washington yet but increase would go into effect January 1.”
On July 31, we submitted comments opposing proposals to hike Lassen Volcanic National Park entrance fees by as much as 33%. This is only the first of many attacks on access to public lands we are now expecting, including yet another proposal to charge fees on Mount Shasta. We have always opposed limiting access to outdoor recreation by ability to pay, and believe park funding is a proper function of government that should be paid from tax dollars.
Please stay tuned to our website and social media for further developments.
Here are the comments we made to Lassen Park managers:
Via email to email@example.com
(no longer working – contact is now firstname.lastname@example.org)
July 31, 2016
Subject: Fee increase
I am a board member and treasurer of the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center. Our organization has worked since 1988 to preserve and protect our bioregion. We believe in safeguarding public lands for future generations, and support sustainable and responsible outdoor recreation. In the mid-1990s, we fought successfully against proposals to institute user fees on Mount Shasta.
We wish to register our strong opposition to this fee increase proposal, and indeed to the basic concept of entrance fees, for a number of reasons.
- People should be able to access – hike, camp, swim, photograph, etc. – their public lands without charge. We all need that as a basic right.
- Fee increases harm visitors and locals alike, and negatively impact the already struggling economy of our area.
- There’s a question about support for parks management, and there’s a question about funding. These are two different and separate questions. The answers are that citizens should benefit from their tax dollars, and parks should be run efficiently, without the unnecessary overhead of fee collection.
- If there’s a need to limit visitors for whatever reason…then limit the number of visitors. Sorting this out by ability to pay is wrong.
Connecting with Nature Is a Basic Human Right
All people benefit by going into nature, and suffer harm when that right is denied or made more difficult. Pristine mountain forests and streams, abundant wildlife and time for reflection and inspiration are all benefits humans have valued as long as we have existed. A recent article noted many reasons why we need contact with nature – to balance our high-tech lives, increase our well-being, and connect with one another. Going further, time in nature has been shown to enhance both creativity and productivity for businesses and their employees.
Fees Hurt Our Rural Economy and Unjustly Affect Lower Income People
Siskiyou County, where we live, and Lassen County are both low income areas. People struggling to get by cannot afford even $5 every time they want to go swim or hike. That adds up very quickly for a family. It negatively affects everyone’s quality of life. These rural economies rely heavily on tourism and outdoor recreation. Many visitors come in groups, and these high increases, of as much as 33%, will strongly affect their decisions on where to vacation. We need to encourage, not discourage beneficial activities that drive our local economy.
Fees are Inefficient and Increase Government Overhead
This is not an issue about spending levels for parks, it is a tax policy issue. It’s wrong to fund parks by charging high and unreasonable fees. In fact, user fees always generate much less revenue than what’s collected, due to costs of collection and enforcement. This is a very inefficient way to raise money. Every new fee means hiring more people who do not enhance the visitor experience, but rather detract from that experience. Doing that increases the cost of running parks with no real benefit. Instead of increasing fees, we believe there is an obligation for government to provide efficient services funded by all from our tax dollars.
Privatizing the Commons Equals Corruption
Preservation of public lands, historically, was considered a proper function of government. Public lands are held in trust for all, and for future generations. Our organization generally agrees with the Sierra Club’s position on user fees of public lands, although we believe all entrance fees should be elminated. We recognize that in areas of high demand, park managers need tools to protect natural resources. Ability to pay should not be the criteria for allowing or denying people use of their public lands.
We are also apprehensive that these big increases in Lassen Volcanic National Park user fees foreshadow more ominous proposals that we see, to privatize our parks. We must not allow that to happen, which would further skim away park funds only to the profits of corrupt and politically connected corporations. Publicly funded, publicly managed parks are basic and essential. Besides our opposition to this particular fee increase proposal, we are also strongly opposed to any future privatization efforts and in favor of appropriate and adequate parks funding from taxation.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on this proposal.
Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center