A federal court recently invalidated a Bureau of Land Management decision to allow continued recreational target shooting within the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The designation of the area as a National Monument cited to the need to protect the natural and cultural objects in the area. The agency initially decided to ban longstanding recreational shooting in the area, which predated the designation of the area as a National Monument, based on impacts to these objects. Advocates of recreational shooting in the ares vigorously objected to the agency’s initial decision. In reversing the agency’s decision, the court noted that the agency abruptly changed its initial decision to ban shooting after receiving a directive from its Washington office. The court stated that it “cannot conclude that BLM acted reasonably in opening the Monument to shooting” because “there is simply too great an incongruity between the information contained in the Final EIS and the decision to allow shooting throughout the Monument.”
The National Park Service (NPS) recently announced that it has selected a foreign-owned company to serve as the Government’s Authorized Concessioner to provide visitors with sightseeing services on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The 10-year concession contract, with gross revenues estimated at over $80,000,000, will require the concessioner to provide transportation as well as interpretive services. The Prospectus stated that the areas which will be served by the contract include the Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, D.C. War Memorial, World War II Memorial, Korean Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial as well as Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. While NPS states on its website that it has “advocated the sale of American-made products in its concession retail shops throughout national parks for many years,” NPS has no such similar requirements for selecting American companies to operate the concessions themselves. In addition, it is unclear who the actual concessioner is at the present time since the proposals were due in mid-January and the selected company was reportedly sold in mid-February.
A federal court recently upheld a new backcountry camping fee imposed by the National Park Service in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The plaintiffs challenged the National Park Service’s recent implementation of the $4 per person, per night fee, which was proposed to cover the service charges and related costs of putting the camping sites on the National Recreation Reservation Service’s online reservation system as well as generating revenue to support NPS staff in the backcountry office. The National Park Service also claimed that the fee was an expanded amenity fee authorized by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA).
In upholding the fee, the court held that, while FLREA prohibits fees for camping at undeveloped sites, that prohibition does not apply to the NPS. The court also noted that the fee was the lowest of the comparable fees at other National Parks, such as Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton. In addition, the court held that the fees met the criteria in FLREA to be commensurate with the services provided, and it did not accept the plaintiffs’ argument that no services should be provided.
The court also noted that, while the National Park Service was required to publish notice in the Federal Register of any new recreation fee area, that legal provision did not apply because the backcountry fee was a “new recreation fee,” but not a “new recreation fee area.” The court also concluded that, while the majority of public input was negative, the issue for the court was simply whether the agency had a rational basis for its decision. The court also held that while the agency was required to show there was public support for the fee, it did not have to show that it was favored by a majority of the public, simply that some members of the public supported it.
|National Park Service|
|Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals:|
|National Park Service Concessions ,|
|15805–15806 [2015–06803]||[TEXT] [PDF]|
|Environmental Impact Statements; Availability, etc.:|
|Motorized Travel Management, Okanogan–Wenatchee National Forest, WA; Cancellation ,|
|15550 [2015–06304]||[TEXT] [PDF]|
The National Park Service recently issued a notice in the Federal Register stating that it intends to begin using a new form that would require concessioners to provide additional information that would show whether they are charging amounts in excess of approved rates or the cost of utilities provided by NPS. As set out in the notice, NPS stated that “this information is necessary to ensure that visitors are only charged the approved rate add-on amount and to ensure that we have a comprehensive view of the concessioner’s financial situation as it relates to the regulations at 36 CFR part 51.” The new form is entitled Schedule R to NPS Form 10-356.