May 02 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is backing a push to improve outdoor recreation facilities in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)-managed areas, provide new opportunities for public-private investments and give local districts more flexibility to reinvest their resources. Boozman is now a cosponsor of the Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act, bipartisan legislation led by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
“When outdoor enthusiasts spend money at a Corps recreation site in Arkansas or elsewhere, it is reasonable to expect reinvestment of those funds back into them to improve facilities and create additional opportunities in these treasured spaces,” said Boozman. “This will help maintain and improve beloved facilities in The Natural State and continue attracting visitors for years to come.”
“Because of discrepancies in federal law, managers of some of North Dakotans’ favorite outdoor recreation sites have to get approval from Washington to initiate operations and maintenance projects. And, unlike every other federal land management agency, the Army Corps cannot retain recreation fees at the sites where they’re collected,” said Cramer. “This makes no sense. Our bipartisan bill would keep resources and decision-making closer to home, while providing new opportunities for private investment in our recreation facilities.”
“This bipartisan legislation will make it possible for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enter joint management partnerships with Tribes and nonprofits, and it ensures that recreation fees collected at Army Corps lakes stay in the community and actually go toward improving those facilities. These reforms will make a difference to New Mexican families enjoying a cookout at Santa Rosa Lake. They are critical to Abiquiu Lake’s role in managing our Rio Chama water. And they are essential to building partnerships with Tribes and nonprofits as we care for our federal outdoor spaces together,” said Heinrich.
The USACE is one of the nation's largest federal outdoor recreation providers, managing nearly 257,000 facilities across 43 states. Under existing law, local USACE managers cannot retain recreation fee revenues collected onsite, an authority afforded to the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Parks Service.
The Challenge Cost Sharing Cooperative Management Program was created for participating agencies to split operation and management (O&M) expenses and responsibilities with eligible outside groups. However, the USACE is limited to partnering with non-federal public entities, despite most interest coming from private and nonprofit organizations.
To correct these issues, the LAKES Act would allow the USACE to:
- Retain 80 percent of recreation fees collected onsite for O&M at that location.
- Enter into cooperative agreements with local nonprofits.
- Handle partner-collected fees and return them to the partner jointly managing the recreation facility to reinvest onsite.
Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Steve Daines (R-MT) have also cosponsored the legislation.Find resources including bill text, a one-pager and a list of stakeholder endorsements.