Publication Date



Working Paper 2004-1


Public recreation land management agencies have been searching for ways to increase revenue. User fees as implemented by the Fee Demonstration Program have received the most attention. Corporate sponsorships and private donations have also been implemented and other options, such as partial privatization, closure of some areas, and different forms of public-private partnerships have been debated. The present paper reports results from a 2002 mail survey of randomly selected Idaho and New Hampshire households, designed to elicit public attitudes about a wide variety of management policies for public (federal/state) recreation lands. The most socially acceptable forms for raising revenue were donation boxes (61.1%), corporate sponsorships for visitor centers (61.8%) and education facilities (61.1%), and adopt-a-site contracts (81.0%). Both increased taxes and user fees faced greater opposition (about 49% of respondents) than support (39%). In addition, user fees have resulted in (reported) changes in behavior among a quarter of the respondents, and may have stronger negative impact on low- income households and on the users of public recreation lands. This study is relevant to the current debate in Congress about the future of the Fee Demonstration Program. Our findings can also be used by policy makers interested in raising revenue through socially acceptable management policies. Our results suggest that donations, adopt-a-site and corporate sponsorships (for selected areas) should be used to raise additional revenues, and if additional funding is needed, policy makers may be justified to advocate for increased taxation rather than fees.