Auditing and Financial Management:

Recreational Fee Demonstration Program Survey

GAO-02-88SP: Published: Nov 1, 2001. Publicly Released: Nov 1, 2001.

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The Recreational Fee Demonstration Program authorizes four land management agencies-- the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Forest Service--to establish, charge, collect, and use fees at a number of sites. The program's goals are to (1) enhance visitor services, (2) address a backlog of needs for repair and maintenance, and (3) manage and protect resources. GAO found that the agencies applied "entrance fees" for basic admission to an area and "user fees" for specific activities such as camping or launching a boat. Under the law, 80 percent of program revenue must be used at the site where it was collected, and the remaining 20 percent may be distributed to other sites that may or may not be participating in the demonstration program. Some of the sites that GAO surveyed experimented with innovative fee designs and collection methods, such as reducing fees during off-peak seasons and allowing visitors to use credit cards, but room for additional innovation exists, particularly in the areas of fee collection and coordination. Three areas of program management could be improved. First, the agencies need to evaluate their managers' performance in administering the fee program. Second, the agencies need to develop information on which fee-collection and coordination practices work best. Third, the agencies need to resolve interagency management issues. Because 80 percent of the fees must be used at the site where they are collected, higher priority needs at other sites may not be met. GAO developed an Internet survey accessible to site managers at all 365 fee demonstration sites operating as of September 2000. This report summarizes the responses of the site managers. GAO's analysis of the survey responses is contained in its report (GAO-02-10).

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