U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
 
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UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
 
March 2, 2006
 
In Reply Refer To:
2930 (250) P
Ref. IM No. 2005-166
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 03/10/2006
Instruction Memorandum No. 2006-102
Expires: 09/30/2007
 
To:              All State Directors
 
From:          Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
 
Subject:       Interim Approval Guidelines for Certain Recreation Fee Increases and Proposed New Fee Sites/Areas
 
Program Area: Recreation Fees
 
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) extends and updates the interim approval process and conditions established in Instruction Memorandum No. 2005-166 thus allowing Bureau of Land Management (BLM) State Offices to proceed with establishing fees at new facilities or implementing routine, incremental fee increases at recreation sites/areas pending establishment of the Recreation Resource Advisory Committees (RRACs) pursuant to Section 4 of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, P.L.108-447 (REA). Once established and operational, the RRACs will immediately become involved in providing recommendations on establishing fee sites/areas and rates as provided under REA.
Policy/Action: Section 4 of REA required the Secretary of the Interior to provide the public with an opportunity to participate in the establishment and implementation of recreation fees. In response to REA the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior published their public involvement requirements under the title “Notice of Guidelines for Public Involvement in Establishing Recreation Fee Areas and for Demonstrating How the Public Was Informed on the Use of Recreation Fee Revenues” in pages 56622 and 56623 of the Federal Register, Volume 70, No. 186, dated September 28, 2005. These guidelines are now in full force and effect and provide the minimum guidelines for all recreation fee decisions.
Additionally, REA requires the USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to establish RRACs to allow for formal public input prior to the establishment of new fee sites or areas and the imposition and adjustments to specific types of existing recreation fees. The RRAC review requirement does not apply to Commercial and Competitive Special Recreation Permits (SRPs) that are processed in accordance with the 2930 Manual (Recreation Permit Administration-Policy and Program Direction for Reviewing, Issuing, Administering, Evaluating, Monitoring, And Management) and 2930 Handbook (Recreation Permit Administration).
The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior are currently developing their final guidance on meeting the RRAC provisions of REA. Because of the length of time required to implement this requirement, it has been necessary to establish an interim public participation process and analysis requirements pending establishment of the RRACs. 
 
Routine Recreation Fee Increases for Recreation Use Permits (RUPs) and Individual Special Recreation Permits (SRPs). Congress clearly requires that RRACs make recommendations on all substantial fee increase proposals. Because REA fails to provide any guidance on the types of fee increases that can be implemented without RRAC involvement, the intention is to involve the RRACs in all fee change proposals and allow them to define the threshold at which agencies could implement routine fee increases without referral to the RRAC. Thus it is the preferred option to delay changing fees until the RRACs are operational.
 
Notwithstanding, regularly scheduled, incremental recreation fee increases or adjustments will be allowed on a case-by-case basis at expanded amenity sites/areas due to either the addition of developed facilities or improved visitor services, or in response to inflationary factors following a current business plan or after full review and evaluation of charges by the private sector and other government agencies providing similar recreation facilities or opportunities within the region or area. In every case the analysis of fee increase proposals must include a thorough public involvement process and price setting analysis. The decision document should document the entire public involvement process and also describe the rationale for the necessity of increasing the fees without waiting for RRAC review and recommendations. For each fee increase Field Offices (FOs) must first consult with the National Recreation and Visitor Services Group (WO 250) to explain the need for an immediate fee increase. With WO 250 concurrence, the FO must then comply with the following steps:
 
1)     Implement a thorough public involvement process complying with the September 28, 2005 public involvement guidelines;
2)     Provide supporting rationale or documentation such as a current business plan or conduct price setting or comparable fee analysis;
3)     Provide for a formal review of the proposal by the existing Resource Advisory Council (RAC) having jurisdiction over the area in which the site/area is located;
4)     Ensure that the local Congressional delegation and affected County Supervisors/Commissioners are notified of the pending decision; and
5)     Obtain “Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning” approval.
 
New Fee Areas. Generally, new standard amenity fee sites/areas will not be permitted prior to establishment of and review by Recreation Resource Advisory Committees (RRAC). However, on a case specific basis recreation fees (RUPs and individual SRPs) may be imposed at new or newly available expanded amenity fee sites or facilities such as campgrounds or cabins where these sites meet the criteria for expanded amenity fee sites as outlined in REA. For each new fee area that meets the definition above, Field Offices (FOs) must first consult with the National Recreation and Visitor Services Group (WO 250) to explain the need for establishing a new fee area. With WO 250 concurrence, the FO must then comply with the following steps:
 
1)     Implement an extensive, public involvement planning process and/or use partnerships;
2)     Provide supporting rationale or documentation such as a current business plan or conduct price setting or comparable fee analysis;
3)     Ensure that the local Congressional delegation and affected County Supervisors/Commissioners are notified in advance;
4)     Complete the required public notification and involvement set forth in both REA and the September 28, 2005 public involvement guidelines cited above, including a notice in the Federal Register (FR) establishing the new fee area/site, and having six months elapsed since establishing the notice of the fee area in the FR; and
5)     Obtain “Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning” approval.
 
Time Frame: Until the RRACs are established and operational, fee increases and the establishment of new fee areas should be delayed. Exceptions may be granted on a case specific basis upon review by the Washington Office.
 
Background:The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, P.L.108-447 (REA), was signed by President Bush on December 8, 2004. The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior requested that all of their respective agencies affected by REA immediately suspend (place a moratorium on) any planned fee increases, or establishment of any new fee areas, pending further guidance issued from the Departments. This guidance was issued in the Federal Register notice dated September 28, 2005.
 
Under existing BLM policy, Field Managers are required to review and evaluate their respective recreation fees biennially to stay current with inflation and to maintain fees comparable to those charged by the private sector and other government agencies providing recreation facilities or similar recreation opportunities. During the first year following the passage of REA, BLM approved a number of routine recreation fee increases that had been initiated prior to the passage of REA. The BLM also approved fees at several newly constructed campgrounds which were planned, with extensive public involvement over a multi-year planning period, and completed in cooperation with partnerships. The list of affected fees and sites was developed in response to the January 2005, IM No. 2005-063 that requested BLM State Offices to submit recreation fee site nominations, for approval, to allow fee increases under the moratorium.  
 
The agencies affected by the moratorium consolidated their respective lists of recreation fee site/area nominations and met with the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior on March 25, 2005, to request reprieve from the moratorium. Based on that meeting, both Departments agreed to approve and proceed with fee increases on specific sites under specified conditions. This Departmental agreement generally affected routine fee increases at expanded amenity sites, such as campgrounds, and the initiation of fees at newly constructed sites/areas where development of the sites/areas spanned several years of planning, were completed with partnership cooperation, or included wide public involvement where there was expectation of instituting fees at the grand opening of the sites/areas.
 
Budget Impact: Impact on the overall BLM budget is minimal. The decision to delay most fee increases until the RRACs are operational will reduce future revenue collected at specific recreation sites/areas. Thus certain individual site/area enhancements will be delayed. On a Bureau-wide basis, it is expected these delays may decrease FY 2006 revenues approximately $150,000. The actual budget impact will depend on how many exceptions are granted.  
 
Manual/Handbook: These interim approval guidelines will have no impact on existing BLM Manuals and/or Handbooks.
 
Coordination: This interim guidance comports with IM No. 2005-166 that was coordinated through the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, the Assistant Secretaries affected by REA in both the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior, all the agencies included in REA, the BLM’s Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning, and Budget Officer; the BLM’s Director, National Landscape Conservation System, and Directives.
 
Contact: If there are any questions concerning this IM, please contact Robert Ratcliffe, Chief, Division of Recreation and Visitor Services at (202) 452-5040 or Anthony Bobo, Acting Recreation Fee Program Manager, Division of Recreation and Visitor Services at (202) 452-0333. 
 
Signed by:                                                  
Authenticated by:
Thomas H. Dyer                                         
Robert M. Williams
Deputy Assistant Director                                      
Policy and Records Group,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning
 
 

 
Last updated: 10-21-2009