BLM wants final OK for Upper Colorado River fee hikes

Agency’s Resource Advisory Council to meet March 6-8 in Montrose

The popular Radium recreation site on the Upper Colorado River. PHOTO COURTESY BLM.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —A federal plan to raise day use fees at two popular Upper Colorado River recreation sites doesn’t sit well with the state’s river rafting industry, which questions whether planned improvements are really needed, and if any fee hikes are a good idea during tough economic times.

At issue is a Bureau of Land Management proposal to up the daily fees at the Pumphouse and Radium sites from $3 to $5 per vehicle, as well as a small hike for commercial users, who make up the bulk of the use at the sites, from $1 to $1.25 per day.

The Pumphouse and Radium maps, along the Upper Colorado River.

“The river is popular because it’s affordable,” said Dave Costlow, executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association, explaining that a half-day run down the relatively gentle waters of the reach costs about $45 per person. “If you have a family of five, it all adds up,” Costlow said, describing it as a 25 percent increase that will be passed on to consumers. The BLM already gets 3 percent of every ticket sold, he added.

“I wonder if we could just manage to the money that we have. It’s a bad time to raise prices. The money people spend on rafting is discretionary spending,” he said. “Maybe they could cut elsewhere to find money for the new boat ramp.”

The increase is one of the agenda items at a March 7-8 meeting of the agency’s regional Resource Advisory Council in Montrose. The statewide Resource Advisory Council will also meet in Montrose (March 6-8) to consider other matters.

Recreation use along the Upper Colorado River. COURTESY BLM.

The additional fees at the Colorado River sites would boost the BLM’s revenue for the two sites by about $27,000, helping to boost services and possibly add new boating facilities. Additional road repair will help ease access to popular spots, and the BLM also plans to add a new storage facility and publish a new guide to the Upper Colorado.

The fee increase is the first since the sites were added to the fee program in 1998 under what was then called the Rec Fee Demo Program. Under the proposed changes, the site could also be accessible under various national recreation and interagency passes.

Commercial rafting makes up a bit more than half of the total recreational use (about 34,000 visits) along the Upper Colorado, with 55 different outfitters licensed to operate. In 2011, commercial boating trips accounted for about 39,000 user days on the Upper Colorado; private boaters numbered about 21,000.

The statewide advisory council meeting will cover a wide range of topics, including an update on new fracking rules, as well as greater sage-grouse conservation planning.

Get all the details and full agendas at this BLM website.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/83530318/Upper-Colorado-River-Fee-Adjustment-092011

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7 Responses

  1. I noticed that new fracking rules and sage-grouse conservation planning are on the agenda too. Considering the Sage-Grouse have to rely on those humans who care, it seems logical that a doubling of fees, extraction fees, drilling fees, pollution fees, damage control fees, etc., should come from those who frack. After all, they can afford to pay, where as the Sage-Grouse have paid with the loss of habitat.

  2. Fees are a reasonable action for these sites, since the impact of concentrated use must be handled by maintenance, development, engineering, education, and enforcement.

    I would like to see the fees, and most especially off-the-cuff arbitrary fee increases such as this one be accompanied by detailed plans and strict control of the funds to benefit the users. These fee actions too often become a bottomless black hole of yearly increases going into a general fund without any oversight or control. It would be wise to determine a way to harden the sites against usage damage and to plan for dispersal of impact of these activities.

    Comments about unrelated issues such as fracking and sage grouse do nothing to encourage agencies to do the right thing regarding day-use areas along a river used by commercial outfitters. Is relevance a lost art?

    • I think Norman was referring to the fact that the BLM’s RAC will also be discussing sage grouse conservation and fracking rules at the same meeting, and it is relevent, because he’s absolutely right – why should hard-working blue collar boaters (and yuppie boaters, for that matter) be nickel-and-dimed while huge energy companies make massive profits off public land, only paying a pittance in royalties? Maybe if the energy companies paid their fair share of fees and taxes, the public land agencies wouldn’t have to keep increasing fees.

      • It would seem to be more useful to comment on the majority of what an article was about, and not on a single sentence, using it for a rant revealing a generic hatred of energy companies.

        We are in complete agreement about the fact that energy companies do not pay their fair share of the costs of controlling and undoing the damage they cause. It is entirely relevant to steer the discussion to making certain that sufficient funds are specifically designated for the purpose of environmental remediation. I fear all too often they are used to further improve the roads with rock and culverts so the energy companies can reach their wells more easily.

        A 25% increase in ANY fee would not seem to be nickel-and-diming – it looks like wholesale pillaging of a benign recreation community. We are on the same side, guys – it is just well to focus on the real changes that need to happen, and I am trying to bring that to the discussion.

        • Got a little carried away with my response. I just wanted to let people know that these fees are up for discussion and approval, and add some perspective from the rafting industry. The whole topic of what energy companies pay and don’t pay in fees and royalties is a whole different subject, but one well worth pursuing.

        • I thought we were on the right side Mark. As for your genetic hatred of energy companies comment, that’s your wording, certainly not mine nor Bobs. Indeed, you are expanding the subject here.

    • Mark, Bob is correct, as you can tell if you read the entire story, that the they will also be discussing what I wrote about. Just so you got it from the horses mouth, so to speak. And no, I’m not.

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