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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 17 - 23, 2002


Will Craig work 
to end fee?

It probably was more than coincidence that within days of each other, Colorado’s Republican U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard and Idaho’s Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Craig announced with considerable fanfare they’re abandoning support of the Forest Service’s contentious recreation fee demonstration program.

Both Allard and Craig are facing rigorous Democratic opposition in their re-election campaigns, and in states such as Colorado and Idaho the demo-fee could be a debilitating political issue for incumbents.

For Craig, a two-term senator, the fee program "has flunked."

Although Craig’s new opposition to the fee is being welcomed up and down the line by dozens of environmental and outdoors groups, his reason, unfortunately, seems narrow.

To wit: he feels that the Forest Service siphoned fees for uses not intended in the original legislation, such as fighting forest fires.

Perhaps unwittingly, Sen. Craig reveals the central scandal of the fee: the Forest Service is so wretchedly under funded that it even has been compelled to divert the $5 three-day and $15 annual fees to such basic emergencies as fighting forest fires.

And why is this so?

Because the nation’s lawmakers ¾ Sen. Craig included ¾ have been atrociously and consciously niggardly in appropriations for the guardians and caretakers of the nation’s most cherished treasures, our public lands.

This is the moral equivalent of a parent assuming the responsibility of adopting a child, then denying the child adequate care.

America’s parks and recreation areas are run down at the heels, understaffed, embarrassing symbols of insensitive political neglect.

Millions of Americans, whose taxes have paid for purchasing these wondrous assets over generations, want nothing more than to stroll through woods, relax beside a waterfall, take in the breathtaking majesty of a mountain vista, watch wildlife in nature’s more primitive settings.

This should be the unfettered right of every American, as well as every foreign visitor who can see tangible evidence of the American culture’s unique devotion to preservation and conservation.

Unlike other members of Congress, Sen. Craig as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, has the influence to translate his new opposition to the demo-fee into a full fledged repeal of the law.

The fee has been on the books since 1997, extended twice since the original expiration date. In September, Congress must decide whether to make the fee permanent, continue the "demonstration test" or repeal it.

Sen. Craig is now on record opposing it.

Will he now champion an end to a fee that in effect puts a price on enjoying a nation’s heritage?


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.