This is the time of year when thousands of RV snowbirds seek respite from winter’s wrath in North America’s dusty public lands. Are you one of us?
We flock to far flung places in the southernmost reaches of Arizona and Southern California to take the edge off the coldest part of the year and enjoy the company of other like-minded souls who want to keep the RVing party going despite falling temperatures.
For those of us with self-contained rigs who don’t mind putting up with a little dust inside our homes, snowbird boondocking on public lands is one of the cheapest ways for full-time RVers to wait out winter. These free and low cost camping areas are a place where RVers return to year after year, and they’re an essential winter refuge for many RVers on limited incomes.
Unfortunately this affordable access to scenic desert camping areas in places like the American Southwest could change soon thanks to recent proposed legislation known as H.R. 5204 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act of 2014, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would impose new visitor and user fees throughout the National Parks System, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Currently caught in congressional limbo but closer than ever to being approved, this bill introduced by U.S. Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), calls for imposing new camping and recreation fees in public lands, such as:
- Parking and entry fees for any public lands that have a public toilet within a half mile.
- Day use fees for recreation in public areas such as waterways, horse and hiking trails on federal lands
- Higher costs for interagency passes (i.e., The America the Beautiful Pass) with incremental increases every three years.
- Charging fees for national park shuttles, interpretive programs and special exhibits
- Requiring campers to pay fees for boondocking on public lands with no facilities
Some RVers vehemently argue that their income taxes should cover the cost of maintaining our recreation areas and vocally oppose any type of fee increases. Alternately, a very small minority steadfastly promotes their belief that fees are a necessary evil for maintaining and improving the taxpayer’s access to public lands. Whichever side of the HR 5204 argument you choose to take (and make your congressional representative aware of), there’s one thing that everyone can agree on:
America’s public lands are a precious resource that need care and protection in order to ensure future generations can derive as much enjoyment as we have from these wild areas. A night spent under the rich tapestry of stars that blanket our public lands is the closest connection most of us will ever have to those brave 1800s pioneer campers of yesterday who slept outdoors not because they wanted to, but because they had no other choice to create a better life for themselves. Ensuring continued accessibility to this experience is our duty as RVers.
On this Thanksgiving holiday in America no matter where your rig is parked, let’s all give a moment of thanks for our amazing public lands that make RVing a fun adventure any time of year.