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The user fee debate continues

However, there are unlimited points of access to public lands. The collection of fees through traditional venues would require a huge investment in infrastructure and patrols. The most feasible method of collecting a fee would be to establish a visible badge, patch or sticker that outdoor travelers would be required to display when visiting public lands.

Speaking before Congress on the issue of user fees on public lands, Mr. Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition, detailed five essential criteria that must be incorporated in the development of user fees.

1. The fees need to be equitable

2. The fee system needs to be efficient

3. The fees need to be convenient for the recreationist

4. The fee system needs to be coherent, flexible and integrated

5. The fee revenues need to be returned to benefit the resources, facilities and programs utilized by those paying the bill.

Backcountry Badges could be purchased through local sport shops, stores, outfitters, tourist bureaus or online. For enforcement purposes, Forest Rangers would have the option of issuing badges on the spot, rather than issue tickets for non-compliance.

The badges could be incorporated into the annual fees paid for boat or vehicle registration, sporting licenses and discounts could be provided for school age children, local residents, veterans, seniors and other deserving citizens.

The visible display of a badge, or a sticker on a canoe, bike, and backpack would encourage compliance, and enforcement would be easy to accomplish for patrols.

If all travelers were required to contribute, it would potentially eliminate the "us vs. them" issue that currently exists among the various user groups.

Regardless of the process of implementing such a fee, the concept would only succeed if state provided a foolproof, ironclad guarantee (read: politician free) that all funds collected would only be utilized for conservation projects within the park.

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