Why Should Public Lands Be Free?

Have you heard the buzz? RVers everywhere are raging mad about H.R. 5204 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act of 2014, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would eliminate free camping as we know it.

HR 5204 Eliminates Free Camping

Currently awaiting approval by both the senate and the house, if passed this bill would impose new fees on everything from visitor centers to scenic overlooks.

Gone would be the days of free rent each winter in Quartzsite.

Dome Rock, Quartzsite

And there would be no more free campgrounds in the U.S., ever.

Fee free camping in New Mexico

We would all be accountable to paying user fees wherever we decide to park.

On the plus side, the bill mandates that at least 90 percent of new monies raised must be used to maintain recreation areas within the park unit where the fees were generated.

Seems like everyone is pissed about this but I’m not as outraged as most because I tend to fall into the camp of citizens who believe that reasonable taxes are necessary to maintain a good quality of life. We all have different ideas of what’s reasonable, but it’s ironic to me that some of the most vocal opponents of this bill are the same ferverent All-American patriots who take advantage of government assistance like Medicare while simultaneously proclaiming that there’s no free lunch in this world and everyone has to pay their way — and parking their $200,000 rig for free all winter in the Southwestern deserts.

Why should anyone get to use public lands for free? Everything costs money; entrance roads cost money, campground trash pickup costs money, so does cleaning public toilets. That’s reality. Who should pay for it? In my opinion, anyone who uses it.

Campground trash we picked up in the Mojave Desert.

As taxpayers we all fantasize that our hard-earned dollars go toward things like maintaining the recreation areas that we love. But the reality is that our politicians are slaves to special interests, and they determine where the majority of our federal budget goes. Agencies like the National Park Service get a pittance in comparison to the military and even our education system. The only way that this will change is if we vote out every politician and employ ethical new ones who will use our tax dollars wisely. But you and I both know that will never happen.

If this bill passes I won’t be happy, but I really would hope that the money it raises will go towards clean up of the many trashy public camping areas we’ve seen in our travels. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll get mad.


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