National Park Service: Revenues Could Increase by Charging Allowed Fees for Some Special Uses Permits

GAO-05-410 Published: May 06, 2005. Publicly Released: Jun 07, 2005.
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Highlights

The National Park Service routinely issues permits for special park uses, such as special events or commercial filming and still photography. However, the National Football League's use of the National Mall to launch its 2003 season raised questions about whether permitting such events was consistent with existing policies and law and whether all applicable fees for permitting special park uses were being collected. GAO (1) identified applicable policy guidance for issuing special uses permits for special events and for commercial filming and still photography, (2) assessed the extent to which this guidance was applied during fiscal year 2003, and (3) determined the extent to which the Park Service implemented the requirement to collect location fees for commercial filming and still photography.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Interior To ensure that the Park Service fully identifies and collects administrative and monitoring costs associated with special event and with commercial filming and still photography permits, as well as location fees for filming activities, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Park Service Director to ensure that the park units we visited consistently apply existing cost recovery guidance and maintain updated cost recovery fee schedules.
Closed – Implemented
The park units GAO visited examined their cost recovery administrative records and charges were recalculated, where necessary.
Department of the Interior To ensure that the Park Service fully identifies and collects administrative and monitoring costs associated with special event and with commercial filming and still photography permits, as well as location fees for filming activities, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Park Service Director to ascertain the extent to which other park units are not consistently applying existing cost receovery guidance, and take appropriate actions to ensure they are consistently applied and costs are identified and recovered.
Closed – Implemented
In response to GAO's report, the Director issued a memo in March, 2006, requiring each region to set up a program to audit each park's cost recovery program every 5 years. In early fiscal year 2007, the regions began conducting these reviews.
Department of the Interior To ensure that the Park Service fully identifies and collects administrative and monitoring costs associated with special event and with commercial filming and still photography permits, as well as location fees for filming activities, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Park Service Director to expedite the implementation of the law that requires the Park Service to collect location fees and costs for commercial filming and still photography, when appropriate.
Closed – Implemented
Park Service developed a policy to begin charging fees in accordance with the requirements of the Act.
Department of the Interior To ensure that the Park Service fully identifies and collects administrative and monitoring costs associated with special event and with commercial filming and still photography permits, as well as location fees for filming activities, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Park Service Director to follow through to ensure that the National Capital Region assesses administrative fees to recover the costs of processing permits for special events and for commercial filming and still photography.
Closed – Implemented
The National Capital Region has implemented a special use permit application fee to cover the initial administrative costs associated with processing permit applications. The application fee is intended to cover the average costs incurred by the park in mailing, distribution and initial review of applications to make sure the information supplied is sufficient to inform a decision.

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