Senators Baucus and Crapo trying to repeal the R.A.T.

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.






Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan