Support for Wilderness Recreation Fees: The Influence of Fee Purpose and Day versus Overnight Use


  • Christine A. Vogt
  • Daniel R. Williams


Recreation fees, pricing, wilderness, service levels, multiple user groups.


This paper examines public support for new user fees established at the Desolation Wilderness in California as part of the Fee Demonstration Program. Traditional approaches to fee policy evaluations have typically focused on economic or revenue issues and equity impacts of various pricing strategies. Support for fees has been shown to vary by users in terms of attitudes toward fees, nature of usage or behaviors, and demographics. Fee support may also vary by the type of recreation or resource area, especially in the case of dispersed recreation areas such as wilderness or other sites, which have historically been provided by tax dollars. To evaluate the role of new fees on public support for spending revenues, this paper compares ratings of support for the use of fees for 19 different management activities, assuming two different rationales across two user group samples. One rationale asks about support for fees to improve upon the current level of service, while the other asks about support for fees to provide the current level of service. A split sample was used to test for effects associated with the two rationales. The list of management activities was developed joinrly by managers and researchers to gather input on spending priorities. Data came from a 1997-98 study which surveyed campers and day users. The results suggest general support for wilderness use fees, with strongest support for restoration of human damaged sites, litter removal, and related information provision. Unlike most customers, the wilderness users surveyed in this study, particularly campers, gave more support for using fees to maintain or provide the current level of service rather than to improve service. Differences between campers and day users for both rationales on particular management activities are presented, as well as a rank order of management activities. Managers can use these results to determine the platform or positioning of spending new revenues. The results show wilderness users prefer a maintenance spending program to restore wilderness conditions over a development and new services spending program. Managers can also begin to match the agencies' project priorities with customers' needs and desires. Overall, this paper provides a case study of customer involvement in fiscal policy.





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