Recreational user fees revisited

Created as a "Central Park for the world," the Adirondacks have been kept "forever wild for the free use and enjoyment" by constitutional convention for over a century.

Free use of public lands is a component of our national, frontier heritage of free movement. It is a value as sacred as apple pie on the Fourth of July. We live in a place with lands so vast that citizens can generally go where they wish, when they want, so long as they do no harm.

The concept of recreational user fees violates the valuable heritage of freedom of movement. However, it is time for those who regularly enjoy this heritage to guarantee that we have quality places to bike, hike, hunt and paddle in the future. If we want to continue to camp and hike, ski and fish, the discussion must begin soon.

If the purchase of an Access Pass was mandatory for all users of state lands, instead of being a voluntary contribution, it could generate an enormous amount of funding for conservation, environmental protection and recreational infrastructure.

The effort may also serve to reduce some of the friction that currently exists between the park's various user groups. It would put everyone in the same boat.

It's important to note that 100 percent of hunting, trapping and fishing license fees go directly back to conservation. Every time an angler buys a rod or reel, or when a hunter purchases a firearm or a bow, a portion of these funds are also dedicated to wildlife conservation through a built in, federal excise tax on those products. These funds are distributed back to the states based on annual sporting license sales.

Together, hunters and anglers contribute about $1.9 billion annually to conservation that would not otherwise exist. In fact, hunters and anglers are the nation's primary source of funding for wildlife conservation. Without their financial contributions, conservation as we know it would cease to exist in our country. For hunters, trappers and anglers, mandatory contributions are included in the purchase of an annual license. But license sales can no longer support everyone's fish, wildlife and other outdoor sporting adventures.

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