For the week of June 17 thru June 23, 1998  

Silver Creek could charge user fee


By KATHRYN BEAUMONT
Express Staff Writer

If more anglers who use the Silver Creek Preserve become members of the Nature Conservancy at $25 per year a proposed user fee for next year’s fishing season may be avoided.

"The biggest factor we’re considering on whether to start these fees is how many people become members," said Paul Todd, the Silver Creek area manager. "If by September we can say 50 percent of our users are members, we won’t initiate the fee."

Todd said only 20 to 25 percent of those who use the preserve are conservancy members.

If Silver Creek does charge anglers $7 to 10 per day or $100 annually to use the preserve, it will be the first of the 1,500 Nature Conservancy preserves in the U.S. to institute user fees.

"That is a big challenge in itself," Todd said.

While Silver Creek’s consideration of a fee program comes at a time when experimental user fees have become controversial in the Ketchum Ranger District and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Todd said the conservancy has been considering fees since the mid 1980s.

"It’s coincidental that it’s happening at the same time, but it’s happening for the same reasons," Todd said, referring to a dramatic increase in the use of both the nature preserve and public lands. "Blocking the public out is not the goal of the fees."

About 3,500 to 4,000 different visitors fished at Silver Creek last year, Todd said, as opposed to some 2,000 visitors eight years ago.

More visitors mean a need to acquire and protect more land.

Silver Creek’s annual budget of $120,000 covers staff salaries, building maintenance and education programs for some 300 school children who visit the preserve annually, Todd said.

To continue to protect the 880 acres of preserve land and 8,491 acres of conservation easement land on which the preserve helps support costs such as stream-side fences, the preserve must raise additional funds for programs such as a $135,000 groundwater study in conjunction with the University of Idaho.

While the conservancy does hold an annual benefit that brings in about $100,000, Todd said, only one-third of the money is used for the Silver Creek Preserve. The remaining two-thirds is distributed among 14 other preserves and projects throughout the state.

As a private, non-profit group, the Nature Conservancy receives no government funding.

 

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