Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Forest Service Gets Push-Back From Seniors, Disabled

Maybe the U.S. Forest Service needs a dope slap. Any politician can tell you that there are two constituencies you don't want to mess with: senior citizens and the permanently disabled. Yet the Forest Service has riled both groups by proposing to eliminate the 50 percent discount at national forest campgrounds that has been available since 1965 to holders of lifetime senior and access passes.

The problem? As America ages, there are just too many of us qualifying for the discounts. That's hurting the bottom line of the private companies that manage roughly half of all Forest Service campgrounds and 82 percent of all campsites that can be reserved.

Until now, law and/or agency policy required private concessionaires to honor the passes and discounts for older or disabled people at facilities they manage. That makes sense, since public funding built these facilities and the public owns them. Contracting out their management may be a convenience for the agency, but it's little benefit for the visitor. For the public, it shouldn't matter who's cleaning the toilets or emptying the trash, as long as the work's being done. But it does matter, and here's why.
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