Silver on Hawthorne on Williams

Several weeks ago, outdoor writer Ted Williams wrote a particularly good piece titled "Robbed by RATS" published in "FlyRod and Reel" ( see ). The article explained, in depth, how recreation user fees are being used to facilitate the commercialization, privatization and motorization of recreational opportunities on our public lands. (motorization was only one component of three equally important components --- and that is an important point that must continually be stressed.) Williams followed up with a shortened version published in several venues as a "Writers on the Range" piece. It was to that piece that the BlueRibbon Coalition's Public Lands Director, Brian Hawthorne, has just responded. His letter to the editor is appended. Hawthorne, in attempting to speak out of all sides of his mouth and to focus narrowly upon his own motorized recreation interests, gets completely tongue-tied. He wants to attack the claims made by Williams, but manages only to prove to the reader that the BRC supports recreation user fees --- provided that land manager operate the fee program as designed by the ARC and other recreation industry interests. To better appreciate the design which served as Hawthorne's model, here's a quote from Congressional Testimony from an ARC board member, followed by Hawthorne's rebuttal to the Williams' piece. STATEMENT BY SUE BRAY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE GOOD SAM CLUB, ON BEHALF OF THE AMERICAN RECREATION COALITION, REGARDING FEDERAL RECREATION FEES IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE HEARING CONDUCTED BY THE U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SUBCOMMITTEE ON PUBLIC LANDS AND FORESTS ON APRIL 21, 2004. The American Recreation Coalition’s position on federal recreation fees is support if: the fees are equitable, and aimed at recovering costs where the services and facilities provided represent significant costs to American taxpayers; the fee system is efficient, costing the least amount practical to administer; the fees are convenient for the recreationist so that voluntary compliance is readily achievable; the fee system is coherent, flexible and integrated, so that overlapping charges are minimized and federal, state and local fees are integrated where appropriate (such as Sikes Act provisions for hunting and fishing fees on federal lands, collected as a supplement to state licenses, or the Pacific Northwest’s winter park program); and the fee revenues are returned to benefit resources, facilities and programs utilized by those paying the fees. I'd just add that the BlueRibbon Coalition is NOT an ARC member organization and that it will likely be a cold day in hell before someone such as Hawthorne serves on ARC's Board of Directors. The BlueRibbon Coalition are wannabes -- too low amongst the ranks of the power players to be accepted into the motorized recreation INDUSTRY's inner circle and too narrowly focused upon their own fun to see, let alone understand, the industry's grand scheme for public lands management. I believe that many of us in the conservation community give the BRC more credit than they deserve while ignoring genuine heavy hitters such as the Good Sam Club's Susan Bray. Land managers dance to Bray's tune while all but ignoring the collective voice of the conservation community. The sooner we understand that reality, the sooner we can change that reality…or so I suggest. Scott --- begin quoted --- OHV users speak out Letter to the Editor June 23, 2007 Dear Editor: Ted Williams' opinion piece in the June 2, 2007, Aspen Times Weekly ("Users getting ripped off by public lands fees") requires a response. In his column he implies new recreation fees are a result of lobbying by the motorized recreation community. Actually, the motorized recreation community in Colorado is not only opposed to new fee areas, but they often coordinate with the anti-fee Western Slope No Fee Coalition. Williams and other "recreation purists" are so blinded by their anti-motorized bias that they can't fathom why Colorado's motorheads would oppose new fee areas. The reason is because OHV users are already paying a fee for using their vehicles in Colorado. The fee is in the form of a registration paid to the Colorado state Off-Highway Vehicle program. Combined with a portion of the gas tax OHV users pay, these funds are made available to federal land managers to maintain the roads and trails OHV users use. Unlike purists like Williams, who resent paying any fee whatsoever, Colorado's OHV users have already paid, and we resent paying twice. Speaking from a national perspective, public opposition to fees is unusual. In many areas of the country, but especially as you move east, much of the public is accepting of fees for recreational areas. Sportsmen pay fees and even non-motorized users accept the idea. Indeed, the mountain bike community is currently discussing a variety of methods to assess fees from mountain bikers that will go to the land managers who manage their trails. The key to managing any successful fee program is well-known. The fees should stay where they are paid, and the people doing the paying should have a say in how the money is spent. Federal land managers should keep this in mind given the vitriol of purists like Williams. If Williams has a point, it's not about the evil OHV people; it is about potential abuse of the fee program. In that regard, Williams and OHV'ers see eye-to-eye. Brian Hawthorne BlueRibbon Coalition Pocatello, Idaho Scott Silver Wild Wilderness 248 NW Wilmington Ave. Bend, OR 97701 phone: 541-385-5261 e-mail: [email protected] Internet: