Multiple Dimensions of Active Opposition to the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program
Keywords:Recreational Fee Demonstration Program, recreation fees, recreation fee opposition, trust, public land funding
In 1996, Congress authorized the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program (RFDP) mandating the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service to implement and test new user fees at recreational sites of different types and locations. This expansion of user fees represents a significant shift in public land recreation management policy. While survey results and agency reports indicate a general support for user fees, there is also a percentage of the population opposed to or unsure of the application of user fees. In the existing literature, it is common for opposition for fee programs to be discussed in terms of equity and potential marginalization of lower socioeconomic strata. This paper examines a broader set of dimensions of opposition to user fees from the perspective of individuals actively opposed to user fees.
In-depth interviews of 29 active user fee opposers provided the perspective and depth needed to describe the mostly unexplored perspective of user fee opposition. Results of the study indicated opposition to the RFDP was based on three factors. First, opponents held specific beliefs and opinions about the personal and societal importance, and role of public lands. Second, opponents perceived that the process leading to the initiation and development of the policy that resulted in the RFDP was secretive and exclusionary. Lastly, participants articulated concerns about the way the RFDP is being managed. The results of this study emphasize the significance of not only the outcome of policy decisions, but also the process by which those policy decisions are made.
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