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At 12:46 PM 10/28/03 -0500, K2 wrote:

>My points: (1) the land is my birthright, (2) charge businesses making a
>profit off of NF land higher fees, or (3) get more from the federal gov't.
>(if necessary, by raising taxes).  Oh yeah, and (4) (though in the
>conversation it was #2) the demonstration fee program is prejudiced
>against the poor.
>
>Now one of the fellas agreed with me 100%.  The other couldn't bring
>himself to see my infinite wisdom, objecting that (1) users demand upkeep,
>so they should be willing to pay for it, (2) businesses, such as ski
>areas, have overhead of their own to take care of, (3) payment via federal
>gov't and (possibly) increased federal taxes are unfair for those who
>don't use National Forests.  Now the obvious answer to #1 is that if usage
>fees charged to businesses profiting from NF land are deemed to be
>below-market, they should be increased until they do.  If this is still
>not enough to cover the costs of maintaining the land for all users, then
>the federal government should make up the difference, if necessary, by
>raising taxes.  Objection #2 and #3 are obvious fallacies.


Without commenting on the issue of the demonstration fee, I do disagree
with your statement that 'objection #2 and #3 are obvious fallacies."  In
the case of objection 2, either you or your buddy overlooks the fact that
ski areas (and other users) DO pay fees if they lease forest service
land.  How much is a function of how much Forest Service land is used - at
many ski areas, some of the land is private and some FS - but IIRC, a ski
area like Loon, which is almost entirely on FS land, the payment is
something on the order of a buck or two for every lift ticket
issued.  That, by the way, includes comps and trade tickets.  Do the math,
and you see that ski areas on FS land are actually paying a pretty fair
chunk of change to the gov't in exchange for the right to use the land (to
say nothing of other costs of licensing and increased regulation that goes
along with being on federal land - costs that are not included in these
fees).  And most ski areas on FS land aren't pulling in obscene profit
margins as a result.  Margins in the ski industry are typically quite small
when compared to most other industries.  Given that ski areas leasing these
lands generally do most of the upkeep on them, they're already in essence
supporting costs of maintaining other parts of the forest(s).

And while I don't know much about the economics of logging, I suspect that
if the fees charged to logging companies for the rights to log on FS land
are "artificially low," as many critics charge, the public benefits in that
wood prices are thus held lower (which considering that people need places
to live ain't necessarily a bad thing, although I'm generally opposed to
subsidies).

As for objection #3, one could argue it either way - but that certainly
doesn't a fallacy make.  The national forest system was created with wide
range of uses in mind - including timber, recreation, wildlife, etc.  If
John Muir had won out over Gifford Pinchot, you'd have a point (in fact, we
wouldn't be having this discussion).  But these forests were NOT
established to be the sole province of anyone - be that a logger who wants
to cut large swathes of trees or a hiker who wants to see nothing cut
whatsoever.  The "upkeep" issue understates the costs, because the true
costs also include law enforcement in these areas, wildlife protection,
fire fighting and so forth.

 From a fundamental issue of fairness, I have to say that I'm more aligned
with FS guy #2 than I am with FS guy #1 (and you).  No one wants to pay
fees, of course, but if the fee structure exists, you have the right to
determine if you want to use that land for your own purposes; you can use
it or not and pay the fee or not.  As can I.  It's  our choice.  You're
countering that with a proposal that *I* should pay for your use of that
land, either in the form of taxes or higher lift ticket costs, whether I
personally want to or not.  In other words, you're asking the government to
take money from ME to support YOUR interests. See the difference?

Now, the fact is that I'd personally rather pay a fraction of a cent a year
in order to have you running willy-nilly in the woods all the time than to
not pay it and withstand your continual proclamations regarding the
manifest destiny of the New York Yankees.  I'm willing to do so.  But the
moment you tell me that it's my *obligation* to do so, then Houston, we've
got a problem.

And frankly, I find the argument that the program is 'prejudiced against
the poor' to be something of a red herring.  There may be someone
classified below the poverty level who got him/herself all the way up to a
national forest in order to do some backpacking and got turned back because
of these fees, but I'd be surprised if that's true.

This doesn't mean that I'm necessarily in favor of the fees, mind
you.  Then again, there are other precedents of government installations
charging fees for use.  Toll highways come to mind. You don't NEED to use
them, and no one forces you to do so.  You could select an alternative
route.  But if you want to use the highway, it's gonna cost you.

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