Ron Wackowski: Still confused about Recreation Not Red Tape Act
October 25, 2017
In response to Geraldine Link's comments about the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, I appreciate the information provided. If anyone should know the details of a piece of legislation like this, you would expect it to be the National Ski Areas Association, the trade association for ski area owners and operators.
As their website states, this organization is "active in state and federal government affairs." They were very involved in the crafting of this legislation. In addition, their primary objective is "to meet the needs of ski areas owners and operators nationwide, and to foster, stimulate and promote growth in the industry."
After reading Geraldine's letter, I was still confused. Specifically, what does "properly administer the 122 ski area permits on public land" mean and how does it jive with Congressman Tipton's assertion that this new act "enhances recreational opportunities?"
So, I called Geraldine and chatted. I want to say that she was extremely helpful. Specifically, Geraldine explained that permits are updated regularly and improvements on public land need to be approved and sometimes various studies (rightfully) need to be conducted.
Apparently, staffing is such in some of these agencies that the review/approval can take a very long time, which adversely affects ski area investments and return. It was hoped that by retaining a portion of ski area fees, the agencies could provide the needed support to reduce permit/amendment backlogs.
However, there is no guarantee in the legislation as written that this will actually happen. I expressed my opinion in my discussion with Geraldine that ski areas will still make the decisions on what changes, improvements and investments to make based on economics, and Geraldine offered that other factors enter into the decision making as well.
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If it were to work as envisioned, the act is supposed to speed up obtaining the agency's "record of decision" on proposals/amendments to permits. With the current war on all things related to the federal government, I have to admit that I am skeptical.
Finally, in my own defense, Congressman Tipton's email says specifically, "The provision in the Recreation Not Red Tape Act would establish a Ski Area Fee Retention Account within the U.S. Treasury, which would disperse a portion of ski area permit fees back to the ski areas on which they were generated in order to enhance recreation opportunities." It says nothing about retention by the USFS for "administering ski area permits."
Apparently, this was an oversimplification by my Congressman's office. Incidentally, my discussion with the Congressman's Washington office did not provide the details in Geraldine's letter.
Geraldine stated that she did contact the Congressman's office and discussed how the simplification of the bill's terms likely generated the confusion. I guess in the future we should take communications from our Congressman's office "seriously, but not literally."