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Baucus, Crapo Re-introduce Bill to Repeal the RAT

(Updaed 11 a.m. April 24, at end of article)

Tomorrow, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) will take another swing at the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA)–or Recreation Access Tax (RAT) to its detractors–by re-introducing their bill to repeal the law and start over with a sensible fee policy. The bill is identical to the bill that died last year at the end of the 110th Congress.

“Every tax day we pay to use our public lands, we shouldn’t be taxed twice to go fishing, hiking, or camping on OUR public lands,” Baucus told NewWest.Net today. “Paying twice just doesn’t make any sense. That’s why I’m going to fight to get this bill passed.”

Back in December 2004, in the waning hours of the 108th Congress, a month after George W Bush was re-elected, Congressman Ralph Regula (R-OH) attached FLREA as a rider to a must-pass omnibus spending bill and presto, the RAT was the law of the land with no direct vote of Congress and minimal opportunity for public input.

Since then, federal agencies, especially the Forest Service (FS), have been in a frenzy creating and raising fees for use and access to federal lands. Idaho and Montana have had fewer fees and fee increases than most states because the FS knew their local senators didn’t support the fee-charging policy to pay for use and access of land owned by all Americans, believing instead that people pay for this on April 15 every year. But in most other states with significant acreages of national forests such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington fees have experienced a steady increase in fees since 2004

“If people are going to care about our natural resources,” Kitty Benzar, President of the primary nonprofit group working to repeal FLREA, the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, told NewWest.Net, “they have to get outdoors and experience nature, and they shouldn’t have to buy a ticket to look at a tree. The stress we are all under in the current economy underscores the importance of simple joys like going for a walk in the woods without having to weigh how much that costs.

“As fee programs have grown and multiplied, visitation to public lands has fallen,” she noted. “That hurts us because we spend too much time indoors, and it hurts local economies that depend on visitors coming to enjoy the public lands. But it has also hurt the public lands agencies, because they are slowly but steadily losing their constituency of people who care whether they have the resources they need to do a good job.

“The Fee Repeal Bill is a great step toward restoring the access to nature that we all need and deserve,” Benzar concluded. “The best things in life used to be free, and it’s high time they were again.”

Update: The repeal bill has been assigned the number, S. 868, and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has joined as a co-sponsor.

For a long list of related articles, click here.

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  1. Good to see them finally going after this again although I’m skeptical of returning to LWCF regulations, but using one side’s propaganda in the title of the article is poor journalism, in my opinion.

  2. So long as you’re of the opposite persuasion, I suspect that is true…

  3. Horst, I’m in favor of refining FLREA, more specifically I’m in favor of reigning in the Forest Service from their usual shenanigans and complete disregard for public input.

    I’m also for good journalism.

  4. This is all well and good, I hate paying fees myself, but as a recreation manager that has seen a steady decrease in funding for my entire professional career, I could only lock the gates at most of our facilities without the extra revenue from fee use. This year alone we got a 48% cut in our recreation facilities budget. That is not a typo! This while the cost of standard operation requirements, ie., pumping toilets, cleaning and stocking restrooms, water testing, garbage collection, etc. has skyrocketed. Last time I researched the amount of tax dollars that went to my agency, it was something like .001 penny for every dollar. Divide this figure by the 15 or so different programs and you will see that a taxpayers contribution to a public campground over the taxpayers entire lifetime would not buy me one roll of toilet paper.

  5. Dave, that’s interesting because the FS recreation appropriation went up 15 million this year, and has increased at twice the rate of inflation since at least 2000.

    Realize two things. First, (with the FS at least, you do’t say which agency you’re with), the administrative overhead is such that in one example. only $6 out of every $100 dollars reaches the ground. The other problem is that if the unit supervisor believes that your rec program can be funded with fees, you’ll receive less funding as a result. A self fulfilling prophesy.

    At least visitation has been dropping.

  6. D8S,

    This is why I don’t usually comment on-line. When someone calls me a liar, I want them to be within arms reach.

    It’s amazing that you know what the FS budget is this year, when there isn’t even a final budget out yet. You must be really well connected. The facts of course are different from what you are claiming. The 4.1 billion dollars that are in the Presidents budget justification for the FS in 2009 (all of which is discretionary and can change on any given year) is a .08% decline from 2008 and a .05% decline from 2007. The recreation budget of 256 million is a 10% decline from 2008. Trails took a hit of -34% from last fiscal year.

    Thank you for telling me how the “unit supervisor” adjusts funding priorities. After working in several state, local, and federal agencies since 1988, I am glad someone finally filled me in.

    The position responsible for budget oversight varies by agency. In the FS, for example, the District Ranger would be the responsible official for recreation because recreation responsibilities are divided by district. In any case, managers are well aware that the intent of fee retention was not to take the place of appropriated dollars, it was to supplement those dollars to help with backlogged maintenance and improve the overall recreation experience. This, of course, did not turn out to be the case and the overall budget, even with FLREA, is down. In 2002 the FS had a total of 3,153 permanent employees in recreation. In 2008 the number was down to 2,198.

    I don’t know where you got the information that six dollars out of every one hundred made it to the ground. Some very simple arithmetic in my head tells me that it isn’t even remotely the case in the recreation budget, but I have to agree that the FS is way too top heavy. So I’ll give you that one.

    Visitation is not dropping. The visitor use monitoring project, the American Recreation Coalition, and several other independent studies I have read all agree that, while there have been occasional drops in visitation during individual years, the overall increase in outdoor recreational activities has been increasing since the socio-economic data began being gathered in the early 70’s.

    So maybe it is you that needs to realize a few things. I would like to go on and on, but I do not have time and I do believe you wouldn’t listen. To me, the only thing worse than being uninformed on a issue, is to also be opinionated about it.

    Why is there no complaining about state parks in every state that charge a heck of a fee for a less than stellar experience?

    I apologize if my irritation came through in my typing, but you should re-read my original comment that appropriations from taxes do not cut it and maybe you could offer some possible solutions instead of misinformation.

  7. Dave,
    D8S’s numbers are correct. You are quoting from the Forest Service’s budget as proposed by the Bush administration but that is not what Congress passed in the FY09 Interior and Related Agencies appropriation. For FY2009 they did indeed approve a $15 million increase for FS Recreation (that does not include roads and trails, which are a separate line item), from $262.6 milliion to $277.6 million. The Bush admin had proposed $237 million, which would indeed have been a cut but it did not happen.
    FS visitation has dropped in every new report from the National Visitor Use Monitoring survey project. Some will quibble that the methods and analysis have also changed from report to report and that’s true, but still the final numbers have been down.
    No one knows how much of the decline is due to fees, but the best analysis I have heard is that fees have the most impact on local visitors, who are about two-thirds of National Forest users. If you want to take the kids to see Old Faithful, the $25 entrance fee is not going to deter you because there is no substitute. But if you just want to go for a Sunday afternoon stroll, a $5 parking fee at the trailhead can have a big impact on your choice of destination.

  8. We wouldn’t HAVE this problem if the forestry program hadn’t been destroyed by the same people now whining about the fees. Nobody seems to remember the cross-subsidy that logging provided, if not directly then in “constitutent” support for more access to public lands.
    Never mind that even on BLM, when grazing rights didn’t get tied up in litigation and paperwork, there was room in the budget for recreational infrastructure, as well as recreation access spinoffs from grazing, mining and petro infrastructure.
    So while I think the fees stink, people need to think through WHY fees ever became an issue. And the fact remains that without any other income source, it IS in fact fair to charge users for the actual cost of maintaining and supporting their activity.

  9. Kitty,

    I know who you are and what you are trying to do. I applaud the effort, but if you are trying to tell me that I have enough resources to be a recreation manager, you are wrong. If your message was, at the same time- Increase appropriations to a level that mad land managers capable of managing the recreation resource, then you would have a lot more of us on board. Fees are a pain, but we are barely treading water and we will certainly drown without them.

    We are working with the initial budget until both House and Senate approve and it is signed by the President. If that has happened no one has changed the number we are given as a budget yet. So we are going into the eighth month of our fiscal year and cannot suddenly make a workforce appear out of thin air. Most of our seasonal work force are college students. If we were given this increase you are talking about, we wouldn’t be able to get folks in the field until mid-season and then they would go back to college in mid-August.

    As far as visitation, my numbers don’t lie. I have been tracking my own for over seven years. I brought up the national visitor use monitoring, so I shouldn’t be surprised that you gave it back to me. This, once every four year effort is only about to start its third time around for the first Forests to start in the cycle. For the Forests that didn’t have the budget or staffing to do it the second go around, some Forests are only starting their second effort. The results show a major shift in how people are recreating, not a drop overall in this very small snapshot.

    Why, when I bring up State Parks, do you respond with Yellowstone? Do you not see a difference? State Parks are just as local as BLM and Forest System Lands. They are certainly not as scenic and the price is higher and my local Parks.

    Out of three Regions, several Forests, BLM, and several local parks and recreation outfits that I have worked for, I have never seen a $5.00 fee for hiking. I know that they have some of that in Colorado where your from? That is not what I am talking about. We would have to close the gate on our campgrounds without fee revenue or dollars from elsewhere. I totally agree with Dave Skinner that we could be responsibly logging and bring in all we needed. Those were the good old days for recreation too. Instead of the “NO FEE” you are selling, maybe you should not see it so black and white. Before FLREA, the campgrounds were mostly operated by a private concessionaire that charged a fee. Maybe I didn’t hear the public outcry then because we could simply say it wasn’t in our hands.

  10. Dave, hello and thanks for the last name. We of strong opinions should not hide in the anonymity of cyberspace.
    First, please do not characterize me as a whiner, and do not presume to know what my views are on other issues such as timber, mining, grazing, etc. The Western Slope No-Fee Coalition prides ourselves on including people of all interest groups, modes of recreation, and political persuasions.
    Second, what do you mean “without any other income source?” The FS gets a substantial appropriation of tax dollars every year, about $5 billion, and that appropriation increased more than 60% since 2000, well ahead of inflation, and that does not include the emergency supplementals for bad fire years. Those appropriated funds from our tax dollars are sufficient to cover the costs associated with basic recreational access like a simple walk in the woods. We have never opposed fees for highly developed areas like campgrounds. It is fees for access to undeveloped backcountry or just for parking on a dirt pullout and using a trail that are the issue. By the way those kinds of fees are prohibited in the law but that prohibition is being widely ignored by the FS and BLM, which is one reason the law needs to be repealed.
    Finally, the FS cannot accurately account for their funds, either from fees or appropriations, and should not be trusted with the power of fee retention until and unless they can. I suggest you read the Government Accountability Office’s testimony to Congress last month at the FS’s appropriations hearing. You can find it at http://www.gao.gov, search for report gao-09-443T. Here’s a sample:
    “Over the years, the Forest Service has struggled to provide adequate financial and performance accountability. Regarding financial accountability, the agency has had shortcomings in its internal controls and has had difficulty generating accurate financial information. Regarding its performance, the agency has not always been able to provide Congress and the public with a clear understanding of what its 30,000 employees accomplish with the approximately $5 billion the agency receives every year.”

  11. Dave,
    I guess there are too many Daves in this loop, I have just figured out that you and Dave Skinner are not one and the same, so I take back my compliment on your courage in revealing your surname.
    The 2009 appropriation was signed into law by President Obama on March 11 (PL 111-8). Yes, that was well into the fiscal year, but in the meantime the federal govt was operating under a continuing resolution at 2008 levels, so there is no reason you should not have had the same funding as you did the year before. The problem is that the FS, if that is your agency, cannot get their appropriated funding out of DC and to the field where you can use it. No amount of effort by Congress (and there have been many, Fee Demo was one) has succeeded in changing that.
    I did not speak about State Parks because I have very little expertise or knowledge about that and I try not to speak on that about which I am ignorant. Every state has their own system, from Vermont where they are entirely funded by fees, to Montana, where fees are forbidden by law. Federal lands are rightfully in a whole other category because no matter where in America you live, you own them, you support them with your taxes, you should have a voice in how they are managed, and you should have access to them on an equal basis with other citizens, not based on your ability to pay. Fee Demo and FLREA represent a major change in federal policy but they were enacted as appropriations riders with no congressional debate and no public input. That’s just not right. If fees are such a great way to fund public lands, why didn’t the proponents of that position introduce and pass legislation through an open and public process? The new administration is all about transparency, and for that reason alone FLREA should go on the trash heap and we should go back to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act which worked pretty well for over 30 years.
    NVUM does not show any major shifts in how people are recreating. You are thinking of a different survey, the National Survey on Recreation and Environment. It only surveys what people do, not where they do it, and any visitation data you see there was gathered from National and State Parks, not from National Forests. If I watch birds out my kitchen window I am counted as engaging in the same activity as if I go on a week-long backcountry birding trip. No, sorry, NVUM is the best data on Forest Service visitation there is and while it may be in its early stages and it is far from perfect, it does show a downward trend.
    Finally, if you want to have to pay $5 to go for a hike on a National Forest, just try anywhere in Washington or Oregon or Southern California or New Hampshire. Try the Eagles Nest or Mt Evans Wildernesses in Colorado, or the Arapaho National Recreation Area. Try any of the trails on Mt Lemmon or around Sedona in Arizona. I could go on and on, and some of those charge more than $5. If it hasn’t hit your neck of the woods yet, enjoy it while you can. It’s coming.

  12. Yeah, I’ve been to the Cascade Tunnel…I liked it way better back in the old days when nobody bothered with it, it was just me and Jim Hill’s ghost. Now it’s five bucks and all sanitized and yuppified.
    I remembered the first fee I paid, at Moab for the Slickrock. Had no problem with that at all, given the intensity of use and the uniqueness of the experience. That still ranks as one of the most enjoyable mountain-bike rides I’ve ever had.
    And I’ll bet zillions that less than a percent of MTB’ers now using the trail know of its origins, with us evil motorheads being the discoverers of the route and first users.
    The thing that gets my goat the most about the recreation fee thing is I’m old enough to remember the days when people understood what a treasure they had in multiple use — including those uses that help pay the bills. But I’m sorry to say that even a lot of motorhead activists I’ve worked with over the years never quite got with the program, and still haven’t.
    And when they did, finally, by golly, in Montana at least, then good old Sherm Anderson had to fall like a ton of bricks for the B-D Partnership. I suppose desperation makes people do stupid things, or not pay attention. But Anderson’s jumping in bed with the Greenies, who DID in fact read the vibe, and “get” what was finally happening….wow, what a blown opportunity to get back on the long climb back to our multiple-use legacy. Maybe the last one.
    The fact is, recreation users are now faced with a situation where they need to take ownership somehow, maybe just like sportsmen did way back when. While I hate the nickel and dime hooey of a fee here a fee there dang fees everywhere…maybe it’s time for the “Multiple Use Pass” and funds are allocated on an actual RVD basis.

  13. Hello all,

    I’m not going to get all wrapped up in this discussion, but several of Dave Skinners’s comments are very interesting and I hope that I can add something positive to the conversation.

    Dave S, you’ve made a some very positive comments. The concept of visitors paying for what they use is generally sound, but in addition to being fiscally inefficient, it carries the consequence of nickel and diming folks to death, as you noted. The latter is exactly why Congress changed the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program (RFDP) legislation to eliminate multiple charges for the same thing, and to implement the America The Beautiful (ATB) pass, a pass spanning all agencies.

    Unfortunately, the ATB pass also meant that the fees became just another tax. If I buy an ATB pass in the northeast, when I use it in western states, the money I paid doesn’t go to the amenities I’m using.

    One of the big problems with fees is that they don’t necessarily go to pay for what I’m using or create changes that are valuable or pertinent to the person who paid. For example, if I camp in my tent in a campground, my $10 fee will likely go to installing hookups for RV’s, and for other amenities I have no need for or interest in. If I’m visiting a wilderness trailhead, I’m there for the wilderness, not for whatever amenities the Forest Service might choose to provide at the trailhead. In short, paying a fee does not create an ownership of the resource, and does not necessarily give me a voice in how that resource is managed. It does make it more likely that the area will be unnecessarily developed.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with funding public lands through federal taxes. Every year, approximately 48% of my property taxes go to educate other people’s children. Given that fact, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that a fraction of their taxes (I think the other Dave gave us a figure) goes towards public lands, which also provides all of us – including them – with fresh water, wildlife habitat, beautiful scenery, and a healthier environment.

    In several senses though, you’re absolutely right. The public loses it ownership when we allow the Forest Service to call us “customers”, and one of the underlying problems is the commercialization of the resource, where it loses value in its own right and becomes simply a backdrop for our recreational activities, or the recreational activites marketed to us. Charging fees exacerbates this tendency by fostering the “I paid for it, I can do whatever I want to it” attitude.

    The sad part of this is that we all want the same thing – quality management of public lands. That’s only going to happen when public land managers and the public sit down and have honest discussions about the issues, such as the ones we’ve raised here.

    Thanks for listening.

  14. D8S,
    I’m going to have to disagree when you say “ownership” of the resource is a bad thing, that people will abuse what they pay for. Ever notice hardly anyone washes a rental car? Well, I do, but that’s just me. But they nonetheless pay for washing and maintaining the car, and allocations of those costs are in fact, pretty efficient.
    As for the pass idea, if the fees are allocated on an RVD basis, that’s pretty easy to track what gets used and what doesn’t, and allocate funds accordingly.
    When it comes to wilderness use, well, fine, you don’t want your money to go to RV hookups, it probably didn’t as the space fee for a wet hookup is usually more than it is for your tent anyway. Never mind that wilderness doesn’t carry its own freight at all. And that’s getting worse what with all the fires blowing out of the wilderness as of late. Ahorn comes to mind. The fire that burnt out of the Park onto the Blackfeet rez, too, the park being de-facto wilderness administratively.
    The bottom line is there needs to be some cost allocations made that have users, who induce maintenance responsibilities on others, taking on those charges, rather than having Ole and Inga in Saint Paul supporting recreation in the Rattlesnake or the Bob, places they’ve never heard of, will never go, and from which they will never, ever materially benefit — even in terms of existence value since they don’t even know that stuff is out there…but Ole and Inga pay anyway. That’s hosed.

  15. Hi Dave S, thanks for the friendly post.

    I think we may disagree on whether paying a fee for something creates a feeling of responsibility for it. I tend to think no, like rental cars, but I think you’re saying you disagree. Personally, it seems to me that when people pay a fee, they expect someone else to pick up after them. Most people don’t bus their own table at a restaurant, or as you pointed out, wash their rental cars, because they feel that they’re paying someone else to do it for them. Similarly, if people are told to pay a fee for public lands, there’s a tendency to say “I paid for someone else to pick up after me”

    Like you said, its pretty efficient for the company to wash the rental car, and for the same reason its pretty efficient for the FS to provide simple amenities like toilets at popular trailheads. Its also more efficient for the IRS to collect fees/taxes for public land management, rather than having every ranger district collect fees at each site. Imagine if we funded roads that way, with a toll booth on every corner. It would be a huge waste of money.

    The point behind my tent paying for RV hookups is that fee retention has created the incentive for land managers to collect as many fees and as high a fee as possible. So, in theory, the rustic little campsite where I pitched my tent would bring in much more money if it had paved sites and RV hookups. The incentive is to take tent fees (and appropriated dollars from you, me, Inga and Ole, for that matter) and install the additional amenities, and then rake in the fees. The problem is, there are numerous examples where it just doesn’t work out that way, where visitation drops in response to the increased fees, and the former tent campers are forced to either pay the higher fees for unwanted amenities or find a dispersed site where their impacts are unfortunately greater.

    While I understand that Ole and Inga may never visit the Bob Marshall Wilderness, I’ll probably never visit the Boundary Waters, their local interstate, etc; in fact any number of federal places or programs that our taxes fund but mostly Ole and Inga use. Like 48% of my property taxes, I pay for lots of things that I don’t directly use. It may not be perfect, but it works better because of its efficiency.

    Perhaps I inadverently mislead you. I do think that ownership is a good thing. But if I had to sum it up, I’d have to say that “owners” don’t have to pay for what they own, and that charging fees and calling us “customers” tends to minimize the good qualities ownership creates.

    I get the sense that we’re not disagreeing as much as we’re agreeing, but are looking at the same situation from different perspectives. Maybe I’m wrong. I think we both agree its a good thing when people take a personal interest in the management of public lands. Whether fees are an help or a hindrance may be a matter of opinion.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Its always a pleasure to have a reasoned discussion with a well informed person such as yourself.

  16. D8,
    No, having the feds allocate money is HORRENDOUSLY inefficient. Just look at all the fighting over earmarks and consider whether you think that process is linear and logical…it ain’t. Somehow the cash flows have to be connected to the activities.
    Basic economics contains a concept called “common resource economy” or the “tragedy of the commons.” In a nutshell, if everyone can run as many cows as he wants on the common pasture, what stops him or her from putting as many cows as he or she dares? Nothing. So instead of having ten fat cows, you have fifty skinny cows that produce half the meat. And there ain’t no grass, just cow flop.
    Bottom line, if you have “free” access to a resource, the resource tends to be overutilized at some point. That’s why pocket wildernesses near metro areas tend to be hammered flat in no time.
    When I was living in CO there was this really cool MTB trail south of Rabbit Ears with a climbing area, pretty much a local secret. The climbing was good, the trail epic.
    So, the Sierra Klub wants wilderness, and the Sierra Klub gets it. So much for us locals. Next time I go up there a year or so later, the trailhead, formerly deserted and/or only partly-filled with WZ plates, was JAMMED with Front Range plates. It was just fannies and elbows every single weekend. And never, ever deserted.
    So now the “wilderness” is marked on maps and the “wilderness” people get their true wilderness experience, while one more drainage south, no roads, no people.
    Last I heard there was talk but no action about a permitting and reservations system, to allocate use and ameliorate conflict.
    My point is, certain wildernesses have a high “price” in terms of effort to access. So they don’t get overused. Others have a low price of access, out the back door. Wham.
    Finally, you talk about people cleaning up after themselves. To a certain point, that’s a stewardship ethic which many people lack. Perhaps the idea of higher fees because you are a slob would encourage people to develop an “ethic” even if it is merely based on a purely-economic model.
    Nonetheless, someone almost always has to be paid to do whatever cleanup and maintenance is needed…volunteers get sick of cleaning up others’ messes. And if you don’t have a stewardship or service ethic…you won’t volunteer.

  17. Again Dave S, thanks for your thoughts.

    First a question. Is the allocation process less efficient than the 25% – 30% that it costs the FS to collect the fees, not counting enforcement?

    The Tragedy of the Commons argument lacks one very important consideration – fee retention. What would stop everyone from running as many cows/mountain bikers/hikers as he or she likes is the fact that no matter how many cows/mountain bikers/hikers they run, and how much money they collect from them, it all goes back to the general fund. As one rec forester described it, “we’ve always had the ability to collect fees, the only difference is that now we get to keep the money”. And what a difference it has made. Of course, congress gets the funds it appropriates from the general fund, so the money doesn’t just disappear, but controlling the funds helps to give congress much needed oversight of the agencies.

    So its fee retention, as implemented under the Rec Fee Demo Program and now under the FLREA, that is one of the primary reasons our current fee system is creating the “Tragedy of the Commons” situation. By returning to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), we help eliminate the incentives that encourage a Tragedy of the Commons. Great analogy, BTW.

    Fees (and fee retention) also affect volunteers. How many people would volunteer if they were told “I’d like you to volunteer this week. You’ll be creating something that I’ll be charging you (again) for next week, and the week after that, and the week after that…..”?

    The long and short of it is that the most important aspect of this bill is that it helps eliminate fee retention. And it is fee retention that has created so many of the problems and controversy within the current public land management paradigm.

    The wilderness issues you brought up are a side note to the issue, although I mostly agree with you. I think where we may differ is in the conclusions.

    Work draws me away, so I won’t be able to continue. But I’d like to thank you for the time and effort that you’ve obviously put into your thoughtful and meaningful comments on this issue.

    Happy Trails.

  18. The funny thing about recreationalists whinning about fees is the fact they worked so hard to get rid of timbering and still are trying to get rid of grazing. Those groups paid for the cost of recreation, even if creative bookkeeping made the claim that they didn’t/don’t pay enough, and that they are subsidized. As recreation has pushed out the paying users, guess what they need to pay the costs. No free rides.

  19. D8,
    There’s a constraint you forgot. The users stop getting the product they are paying for if you don’t manage things in a way that protects the product.
    If you run a bazillion cows (users) one year, pound the grass (amenity) to dust, then the cows starve the second year, you aren’t going to be in the grass business.
    Or, if the cows are smart, they’re gonna take one look at that pasture and stop at the gate. Sure, you raked it in that one cycle, but what is your long-term flow? So the “commons” analogy does NOT support “free” use supported by general taxation without serious mis-allocation.
    Here’s a mis-allocation. I’m lost in Missouri near Kansas City on the way back from South Carolina, dodging a black sky over the city.
    Out in the toolies, on a dirty-Thirties highway, my buddy and I hang a left past some dirt piles and barriers. All of a sudden we’re on a four-lane freeway, the Ike Skelton Soul Center of the Universe Bridge and Bacon Rind Freeway. We go eight miles, see one car going the other way, and we’re back in Dirty Thirties infrastructure.
    I suppose the vision is a beltway around KC, but right now, you and I (and our grandkids) have paid forward on something we never heard of, will never use, and will never benefit from. Great place to speed-test the tractor, I guess.