Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:00 PM

Mr. Marvel Stalcup

Arizona No-Fee Coalation

Arizona No-Fee Coalition
25 Sierra Roja Cr. Sedona AZ 86351
928-284-3399
info@AZNoFee.org

Marvel C. Stalcup

Testimony
Before the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
United States Senate

Hearing on
P.L.108-447
October 26, 2005

 


Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee;

Thank you for the privilege of testifying before you today concerning the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, P.L.108-447.  It is an act of great concern to me, and I feel obligated to come before you today and tell you why.

I have just read a press release from the United States Forest Service (USFS) in Sedona Arizona dated June 15, 2005. It states that “The Red Rock Pass program clearly meets the conditions described as a High-Impact Recreation Area (HIRA)” and thus “No changes are necessary in the Red Rock Pass program under the REA authorization.” I can testify from personal observation that no changes have been made to the Red Rock Pass program in Sedona since the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) was enacted.  The same signage and fees that were in place during the Fee Demo period are still in place today.

It should be noted however that, in Section 803(d)(1) of the FLREA, language clearly and explicitly prohibits fees solely for parking or picnicking, for general access, for dispersed areas with low investment, for driving or hiking through, for camping at undeveloped sites and for use of overlooks. The HIRA concept does not exist in the FLREA and the USFS is using it to circumvent the intent of Congress as described above. Signs along each of the highways leading to Sedona state “A Red Rock Pass is required to park on the National Forest.” At all of the trail heads and scenic overlooks signs are prominently displayed which read “A Red Rock Pass Required to Park.” The vast majority of these signs mark parking areas that do not have the amenities required by FLREA.

While thinking about my testimony today I glanced down at the coffee table and saw the September 2005 issue of Arizona Highways. On the cover is a photo of a hiker relaxing upon a rock outcrop, enjoying an endless vista of trees and mountains. This photograph symbolizes the essence of our Wilderness areas. The lead article is entitled “This land is your land - Arizona's six national forests celebrate a century of protection and recreation.” I am sure that Howard Zahniser, the author of the Wilderness Act, and the 88th Congress had this hiker in mind when they passed the Act in 1964. To ask this person to buy a pass to sit on a rock and commune with Nature would be sacrilegious.

We have three Wilderness areas around Sedona encompassing some 121,000 acres. Congress designated Sycamore Canyon a wilderness area in 1972 and the Redrock Secret Mountain and Munds Mountain areas in 1984. Of the 72 trails listed on USFS website at www.redrockcountry.org/recreation/trails.shtml 35 are listed as being “in wilderness.” However, the Coconino National Forest has declared the entire area surrounding Sedona an HIRA and is charging fees to access all of our local Wilderness areas.

HIRAs are also limiting public access in other parts of Arizona. Just northeast of Tucson is the Pusch Ridge Wilderness area with almost 57,000 acres that Congress designated in 1978. The Mount Lemmon Highway is the major access to this area and its 26 trailheads and 10 picnic areas. The USFS is using the HIRA to charge $5 per auto to those people using the road, except those stopping at any of the six vistas or those going to campgrounds or private property. The sign at the tollbooth says, “FEE REQUIRED FOR picnicking, all camping, roadside parking, trailheads and restrooms.” The fee is required to park anywhere along the highway, except at designated vistas and there are lots of places where people just pull off and park: climbers, hikers, and folks who just walk into the woods. The Sabino Canyon Visitor center provides the only access to the southern margin of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area and thus controls and charges for access to some 50 miles of hiking trails. It seems that the USFS has overruled Congress’s intention to create untrammeled wilderness areas when they began charging for their use.

I attended the University of Idaho under the GI bill and was graduated with a BS in Geology in 1960. I started at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod Massachusetts in January 1961 and worked in the Physical Oceanographic Department for 31 years during which I spent considerable time at sea.

They tell the story about an old salt who, when it comes time to retire, puts an oar on his shoulder and walks inland until someone asks him what that thing on his shoulder is. I got as far as Arizona before anyone asked me.

I live among the Red Rocks of Sedona, which is a small enclave of private land surrounded by the Coconino National Forest. The privately owned land was originally homesteads that have been subdivided into house lots and is just about built out. The area has remarkable buttes, ridges, mountains and canyons accented by 300 million year old Redwall Limestone and sandstones, like those of the Grand Canyon.

But, unlike the Grand Canyon, Sedona’s Red Rocks are on a much smaller, more human and less awe-inspiring scale. The scenic beauty of Sedona prompted Congress to designate three Wilderness areas nearby to forever preserve its heritage. I hope that each one of you will visit Sedona sometime soon and permit me to show you our natural wonders. You Senators hold the key to maintaining unfettered access to our forest lands while, at the same time, preserving them for future generations.

Sedona has a population of about 18,000, many of whom are retired from across the nation and throughout the world. Our natural beauty attracts several million visitors each year, who come to view the marvelous colors and extraordinary shapes of our rocks.  Some merely stop by the side of the road to take photographs but many others hike and bike our trails.

By one count we have 77 trails in Sedona, almost half of which are within the Wilderness areas. There are about 180 miles of trails and almost everyone in Sedona either hikes, bikes or rides them. We have two clubs dedicated to the preservation and maintenance of our trails. Friends of the Forest (FOF) has a membership of 325 who both staff the visitors' center and work on the trails. The Trails Resource Access Coalition (TRACS) has a membership of 30 and works with the Forest Service to provide trail maintenance twice a month.

In 2004, FOF donated 906 hours of volunteer trail work which saved the USFS $11,968 in labor costs. They also provided funds for high-grade native plant seed to spread on the soil to enhance the visual effect and reduce erosion. Their restoration work also includes transplanting prickly pear cactus to discourage those who try to go off the regular trail. Last year TRACS donated almost 600 hours of trail work to the Forest Service. In addition to these organized efforts, most people I know pick up litter during their hikes. The USFS estimates that local volunteers provide the equivalent of $450,000 per year to the Red Rock District

As you can see our local residents value their forest lands and trails because they are our backyards and we use them on a regular basis. On October 22, 2002 the Sedona City Council voted 5-2 to pass a resolution asking Congress to restore proper funding for public lands in order to eliminate the Recreational Fee Demonstration program. One of the dissenting votes came from a council member calling for an even stronger resolution. The majority of our residents and visitors are opposed to paying fees to access our public lands, especially in our Wilderness areas.

The trailheads at most of the trails we hike consist of a dirt parking lot with space for four to twenty cars and no amenities of any kind. These trailheads have no toilets, no trash bins, no picnic tables and no security services. At some of the parking lots, the USFS has erected a billboard with a map and signage telling hikers to stay on the trails. Just a few parking areas have a machine selling the Red Rock Pass. But in each and every one of these parking areas the USFS has installed a sign informing visitors that “Parked Vehicles must display a Red Rock Pass.” Along the highways leading to Sedona the USFS has placed signs advising visitors that a Red Rock Pass is required to park on the National Forest. Most of the parking areas along the highways and at the trailheads near Sedona do not contain the amenities mandated for day-use areas by FLREA. All of them control access to dispersed, undeveloped, backcountry, for which the FLREA prohibits charging fees.

Information on the internet indicates that the Department of the Interior and the USDA hosted a Regional Listening Session in Phoenix on July 14, 2005 to both distribute information and collect input relating to the establishment of the Recreation Advisory Committee. I have requested a progress report from the Department of Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service and am anxiously awaiting a reply. I sincerely hope that the USFS will establish such a committee in Arizona to address the problems associated with the public's recreational use of public lands.

Howard Zahniser, author of the 1964 Wilderness Act, used the word “untrammeled” to define Wilderness and he defined “untrammeled” as “not being subject to human controls and manipulations that hamper the free play of natural forces.”

It seems to me that the authors of this legislation intended to protect Wilderness areas for posterity, which implies that they wanted us and our offspring to be able to visit them in perpetuity. I am certain that they never expected that the public would be made to pay access fees for the privilege. The untrammeled nature of our wilderness areas has been severely compromised when the USFS uses their HIRA concept to force us to buy a pass to enjoy them.

I have included excerpts from the 1964 Wilderness Act at the end of this testimony for review.

Mr. Chairman I request that both my written and oral testimony be made part of this
hearing.

===============================================================

 

Wilderness Act

Public Law 88-577
88th Congress, S. 4
September 3, 1964

AN ACT

To establish a National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole people, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SHORT TITLE

Section 1. This Act may be cited as the "Wilderness Act".

WILDERNESS SYSTEM ESTABLISHED STATEMENT OF POLICY

Sec. 2. (a) In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as "wilderness areas", and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness; and no Federal lands shall be designated as "wilderness areas" except as provided for in this Act or by a subsequent Act.

    (b) The inclusion of an area in the National Wilderness Preservation System notwithstanding, the area shall continue to be managed by the Department and agency having jurisdiction thereover immediately before its inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System unless otherwise provided by Act of Congress. No appropriation shall be available for the payment of expenses or salaries for the administration of the National Wilderness Preservation System as a separate unit nor shall any appropriations be available for additional personnel stated as being required solely for the purpose of managing or administering areas solely because they are included within the National Wilderness Preservation System.

    DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS

    (c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.

PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN USES

 4   (c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.