Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Privatization Threatens an Arizona National Forest

Tonto National Forest stretches from southeast of Phoenix to far in to the Northeast near Payson. Adventure Journal posted an article today about the privatization taking place in Tonto National Forest's Payson District. Basically, the NPS is selling out to private companies who will manage tourism. The problem is that, unlike the NPS, those private companies can charge what they want. They can charge whatever admission fees they want, set permit prices, even charge for parking! Handing over our federally funded land to private contractors who can make profits on land our tax money pays for is nothing but government sanctioned highway robbery on public land.

The article on A.J. explains the situation very well. Read it here - Privatization Threatens an Arizona National Park. It's written by Kitty Benzar of High Country News and the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition.

Here's few thoughts that Benzar doesn't mention. My first reaction to hearing the threat of private fees was "Screw 'em! I'll sneak in or go somewhere else!" I'm not going to get shaken down for some bullshit fees by corporate thugs on my way into a NATIONAL forest and I'm sure I'm not alone. Unlike the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, I don't completely object to small, moderate fees that help pay for the upkeep of the land and I think most people will pay them just to stay on the right side of the law. It's fair that if you use the parks, you help fund them a little more than folks who don't use them. But I'm not bowing to private companies if I want to use land my tax money pays for and shame on anyone who tries to use the law to force our money into private hands in order to access PUBLIC land.

Fee avoidance will likely hurt the visitation numbers in TNF's Payson district and will send people like me to Apache-Sitgreaves NF, Coronado NF, or others, putting more stress on the land in those forests. I don't encourage using the land illegally, as that opens the door for litter, fire danger, and other abuses, but if you can find a way around corporate fees, I simply ask you show the forest all the respect you would have had you paid. Whatever you do, don't pay private fees to use national land. Our best chance of squashing this stupid idea is to make it unprofitable to the contracted companies.

Benzar provides the following contact information in her article: Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell at RecreationFees@fs.fed.us. Please take a moment to write to Mr. Tidwell and tell him that under no circumstances will you accept private park fees in NATIONAL Forests.

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