Sacramento, April 23, 2007 Today the California Assembly overwhelmingly passed Assembly Joint Resolution 21, calling on the U.S. Congress to repeal the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. FLREA authorizes public lands agencies to charge access fees for federally managed public lands, including National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas.

California’s resolution is similar to those already passed by legislatures in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and the Alaskan House of Representatives, and sends a clear message to legislators in Washington DC who are evaluating the FLREA’s future. The text of AJR 21 can be read at:

AJR 21 passed the Assembly by a vote of 62-10. At its hearing before the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife on April 18th the resolution’s author, Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D, Pasadena), stated that ‘the fees created a backlash from people who saw them as double taxation and a barrier to public access. Fee opponents point out that this fundamental change in public lands policy had been accomplished without public debate or Congressional discussion,’ a reference to the FLREA’s passage in December 2004 as a last-minute rider to an important appropriations bill. The Resolution was co-authored by Assemblymember Bill Maze (R-Visalia) and by District 36 Senator Dennis Hollingsworth.

Testifying in favor of AJR 21 were Alasdair Coyne of Keep Sespe Wild and John Karevoll, representing the Western Slope No Fee Coalition. Coyne testified that ‘the law this resolution addresses, a permanent fee authority for federal public lands which make up nearly a quarter of California’s area, has served to increase the variety of fees that face Californians who enjoy to visit these lands.

The Forest Service circumvents the protections in the FLREA by grouping several minimally developed or undeveloped sites together and designating them as a High Impact Recreation Area (HIRA). Despite FLREA’s prohibition on charging solely for parking or use of dispersed areas the Forest Service has designated 31 HIRAs in the Adventure Pass areas of Southern California alone. These 31 HIRAs encompass some 396,230 acres with an additional 280 individual recreation areas designated as fee areas. Each of these HIRAs provides access to undeveloped backcountry, for which the FLREA also prohibits fees. In addition, many Forest Service roads continue to be posted as ‘Fee Required Beyond This Point’ even though the FLREA prohibits entrance fees, fees for general access, and fees for driving through public lands.

Karevoll testified that, ‘If I drive my son to a basketball game at our high school and pull to the side of the road to check out the view, I can be ticketed, ultimately fined $5,000 or get six months jail. We’re not talking about a developed scenic turnout, just the side of State Highway 18. So the Adventure Pass is clearly a barrier, it keeps people away. I can tell you that forest visitation has dropped the past few years despite the Inland Empire’s growth. In fact, half the time I see nobody. Even on major holidays.’

Other groups supporting AJR 21 include the Sierra Club, the California Native Plant Society, the California Equestrian Trails and Land Coalition, the Planning and Conservation League, Public Lands for the People and Free Our Forests.

AJR 21 will now go over to the California Senate for hearings and a floor vote.


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