An Ohio congressman has forced a measure through Congress to implement permanent access fees for recreation on all land managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Reclamation. Ralph Regula (R-OH) succeeded in attaching his bill as a rider to the giant Omnibus Appropriations Bill recently enacted in the lame duck session of Congress. The bill was never passed by the House and was never introduced, given a hearing, or voted upon in the Senate. Omnibus bills are considered “must pass” legislation because of the potential for a government shutdown. Some members of Congress use riders attached to them as a way of getting funding for pet projects often referred to as “pork.” Regula’s bill, HR 3283, allows the federal land management agencies to charge access fees for recreational use of public lands by the general public. The Regula bill will go into effect when Fee Demo expires at the beginning of fiscal year 2005 unless the new congress acts to derail it. Its key provisions include permanent recreation fee authority for all National Forests and BLM land. Failure to pay the fees will be a criminal offense punishable by up to $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail. Drivers, owners, and occupants of vehicles not displaying either a daily or annual pass will be presumed guilty of failure to pay and can all be charged, without obligation by the government to prove their guilt. The bill also establishes a national annual pass expected to cost $85-$100 initially. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:HR3283: This bill passed December 6th . Get your checkbooks out.