Tipton wants audit of fee program

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., is circulating a letter in Congress that urges the Government Accountability Office to audit the federal program that allows the U.S. Forest Service to assess a fee to visit public lands, such as the Maroon Bells Recreation Area.

Tipton wants the GAO to gauge the effectiveness of the Fee Demo program and the related Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. The act was approved to allow federal land management agencies to collect fees at recreation sites that provide specific benefits, then reinvest those revenues at the sites.

Tipton represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Aspen and most of the Roaring Fork Valley.

The letter Tipton is circulating notes that there were two previous GAO reports, one on Fee Demo and the other on the enhancement act. “Both identified some serious problems, and an updated audit of these programs is needed to determine whether these problems have been addressed and whether new issues have arisen,” the letter says.

White River National Forest officials have previously said the Fee Demo program is essential to running the Maroon Bells interpretative center and other facilities 11 miles southwest of Aspen. Operation of the Bells facilities would consume the funds typically allocated to the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District for recreation programs. Charging the fee makes the Bells facilities self-sustainable.