Federal Lands Recreational Enhancement Act (FLREA) was passed in the dark of night in 2004. It has become known to its opponents as the Recreation Access [to public lands] tax, or “the RAT,” for helping us remember it.

By “dark of the night,” I mean it was added to the omnibus appropriations bill with no debate, by Republican US Representative Ralph Regula of Ohio. This came on the heels of the 2-year Recreation Demonstration Fee Program which had proven unpopular, but limited in extent.

Since the RAT, more and more of the public lands are accessible on a fee only basis, and they will often try to charge you fees multiple times. My bad experience was last spring in the Sycamore Canyon area of Arizona, where I not so happily forked over $10 to park at a trailhead, and so I thought have general access to the scenic canyon for the day.

After a hike of a couple hours I drove further down the canyon and pulled into another parking lot at a scenic location. I drove past the toll both and began to park. A frantic toll booth person ran up to me and said “it’s ten dollars!” I pointed to my $10 pass in the window. She said it’s another $10 for this parking lot. I left, found an uninteresting logging road in the yellow pine and found peace from RAT collectors.

Here is the story in New West by Bill Schneider. At the end of the article are links to a large number of previous stories on the tax.

You can also search this blog for previous stories.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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