Backpack Tax

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chumley
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Backpack Tax

Post by chumley » Feb 23 2017 10:38 am

I read an interesting editorial from a Jackson Hole newspaper posted yesterday and I think it would make a worthwhile discussion among the outdoor enthusiasts that use this website.

I encourage you to read the whole thing but some highlights are as follows:
After years of being pushed aside by the louder voices and deeper pockets of oil and gas, coal and other extractive industries, the outdoor industry now thinks it has grown enough to deserve a seat at the table when it comes to deciding the future of our public lands.
The voice that had the most power for conservationists at the bargaining table was that of the “hook and bullet” crowd. Hunters and anglers were respected and listened to. Why? Because hunters and anglers are willing to pay to play. In fact they have contributed more than $300 million to federal coffers through self-imposed excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and fishing equipment. Those dollars have been used to help fund wildlife conservation efforts. They’ve also given the hook and bullet crowd credibility and clout.
we need to be paying our way like hunters and anglers and motorized recreationists (who pay an excise tax on gas that is used to support motorized trails). Because these groups pay into the system they get something in return. Right now outdoor recreationists aren’t really paying into the system, and it shows. We don’t get a lot of respect from our government so our voices often go unheard and our needs unmet.
The idea of a tax on outdoor equipment was proposed in the 1990s. The Seattle Times editorialized that it was a bad idea.
Supporters consider this a reasonable "recreational user fee" to pay for conservation efforts. But unlike on-site user fees at national parks, the backpack tax is not narrowly directed. Many of the items that would fall under the proposed tax are not used exclusively for recreational purposes. For example, there would be no distinction between school children's backpacks and backpacks for hiking and camping. Camera, film, bird baths and bird feeders would all be taxed, no matter how purchasers plan to use them.
I generally fall into the category of thinking that says we already pay taxes that include support for public lands, but those taxes are not being managed to their best use. Will adding more money to the pot make the spending decisions any wiser? Probably not.

But I'm intrigued by the concept that a unified group of outdoor enthusiasts may get a more powerful and centralized voice provided by a so-called backpack tax that might help push the land agencies to consider the priorities of the outdoor recreation "lobby" more seriously.

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flagscott
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by flagscott » Feb 23 2017 11:32 am

Eh, this is a non-starter because the people who currently run our government hate government spending for the environment and pubic lands more generally. So it's probably not worth arguing about. Maybe some of the more progressive states would go for it and use the money locally. Bully to them if they do.

But I take major issues with @chumley 's statement that we already pay taxes to cover public lands. Current funding levels (which are independent of taxes) for federal land agencies are woefully inadequate, largely due to spending freezes that have meant that spending does not keep up with visitor numbers or even inflation for some agencies. The Forest Service spends fully half its budget fighting fires and can't do trail maintenance anymore in a lot of places as a result. NPS has billions of dollars in maintenance backlogs, which includes trail maintenance and construction. And visitor numbers on public lands are increasing, which increases costs and maintenance needs. If you've ever wondered why so many trails in AZ are in shit shape, there's why. I've seen lots of quotes from recreation managers saying that they would love to fix up trails but they can't afford. Volunteers can only do so much and generally can't do the literal heavy lifting needed to repair damaged trails. Oh, and you can add to that a hiring freeze which means no trail crews this summer, I'll bet. Just watch those holes in the South Kaibab trail get bigger and bigger.

So, you can debate the merits and details of a camping tax, but the notion that the management agencies already have enough money to do their jobs fully is wrong.
I generally fall into the category of thinking that says we already pay taxes that include support for public lands, but those taxes are not being managed to their best use. Will adding more money to the pot make the spending decisions any wiser? Probably not.
There are lots of examples of dedicated revenue streams doing a world of good. The Pittman-Robertson tax on guns and ammo pumps hundreds of millions of dollars a year into wildlife-related projects, including a lot of habitat restoration and purchases. If a camping tax ever came to be, a more organized hiker/outdoors lobby + a well-written piece of legislation that kept the money off limits to greedy legislators could do a lot of good for public lands and outdoors recreation.

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chumley
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by chumley » Feb 23 2017 11:52 am

flagscott wrote:I take major issues with @chumley 's statement that we already pay taxes to cover public lands.
That's your prerogative, however what I said ("we already pay taxes that include support for public lands") is an indisputable factual statement.
flagscott wrote: Current funding levels ... for federal land agencies are woefully inadequate

I never said they weren't.

With regards to the Backpack tax, I think your last sentence and my last sentence reflect similar sentiments.

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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by Jim_H » Feb 23 2017 8:33 pm

I don't think a tax is necessary or effective. Not on retail gear or equipment. I buy and consume so little, at least.

Park fees need to be increased, I mentioned that last year when I saw the vast crowds and poor, over used conditions in Zion. Fees can go to multiple things, but generally I find trails here to be pretty good, actually. Increased park fees can help with whatever holes exist.

The FS is in a different area, and unlike Parks they can't really levy visitation fees, nor should they. However, the Red Rock and other passes show they can sort of charge, but my guess is there could be a better way. I'd like to see fees for things like OHV use, equestrian use, bicycles and things that are more obtrusive, than fees for hikers and packers.

Really, I favor letting the feds be less aggressive with forest fire suppression, more aggresive with ecological and silviculural fires and thinning, and more local efforts to fight or mitigate fires, as a way to free up funds for non-fire management. Another topic well discuss on HAZ.
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by cactuscat » Feb 23 2017 9:21 pm

@chumley
Interesting - I just read almost the same exact thing in the new issue of Outside magazine.
I say heck yeah, we should all pay a tiny percent more for our gear to protect and preserve the places we love. Sign me up.
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by rcorfman » Feb 24 2017 10:13 am

Jim_H wrote: I'd like to see fees for things like OHV use, equestrian use, bicycles and things that are more obtrusive, than fees for hikers and packers.
FYI, there are fees for OHV use. An OHV decal has been required in Arizona for several years now.
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by rcorfman » Feb 24 2017 10:20 am

The one thing I haven't seen mentioned is that this "backpack tax" or whatever it is called would also impact the hunters and anglers and other recreationists that are already paying for their activity too (they all buy gear). So would this sort of thing really add legitimacy to hikers and backpackers? I kind of doubt it.
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by rcorfman » Feb 24 2017 10:28 am

chumley wrote:I generally fall into the category of thinking that says we already pay taxes that include support for public lands, but those taxes are not being managed to their best use. Will adding more money to the pot make the spending decisions any wiser? Probably not.
I don't think that's the gist of the article. Essentially everybody pays taxes, so that's the base line. What distinguishes one advocacy from another? Reaching above the base line whether it be money, blood, sweat, or tears. So to give credibility to the advocacy, something extra is needed.
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flagscott
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by flagscott » Feb 24 2017 10:57 am

rcorfman wrote:The one thing I haven't seen mentioned is that this "backpack tax" or whatever it is called would also impact the hunters and anglers and other recreationists that are already paying for their activity too (they all buy gear). So would this sort of thing really add legitimacy to hikers and backpackers? I kind of doubt it.
I disagree. The Pittman-Roberson tax gets paid by everyone who buys a gun or ammo. I don't have the numbers, but I'll bet that a large majority of that money is spent by non-hunters. Still, hunters and hunting groups constantly (like to the point of annoyance) use that tax to argue that they are funding conservation in America (an exaggeration at best). And they use the same argument to steer state agencies that receive the money to certain projects that will benefit hunters.

So I think that an active and vocal group of public lands' users/advocates could help steer the proceeds from this hypothetical tax towards good causes.

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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by Tough_Boots » Feb 24 2017 12:55 pm

I don't really understand the argument that we will be listened to more if we pay more fees or taxes. The mining and oil industries have a say because they are spending a fortune but that money doesn't go to the lands-- it goes into politicians pockets. Hunters and fishers don't just have a say because they have self-imposed taxes. They have a voice because they are organized on a local and national level. Hikers, backpackers, and climbers are not.
Last edited by Tough_Boots on Feb 24 2017 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Jim_H
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by Jim_H » Feb 24 2017 1:59 pm

@rcorfman
Ha! Shows how much I know on that, but it is good to see they already have something for that. Does it go towards Federal Lands though? I bet not.
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by desert_boonie » Feb 25 2017 7:44 pm

"No one likes to give more money to the federal government, but if we want to protect the lands that give us joy and freedom, we should be willing to pay."

This is the last line of the article which truly upsets me. The second you pay to set foot on a piece of land you are not free, the second you pay another tax you are not free. Money does not protect the land, it never has, it never will. New taxes or laws are just attempts to deal with occurring problems without a real way to solve anything. Why would anyone be okay with giving up more money to go outside just so someone you do not know will profit from it?
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by nonot » Feb 26 2017 7:42 pm

Taxes (in this country) are about paying something to get something in return. You pay your state and federal tax, and you get - police service, fire service, road maintenance, and it includes things like all the money given to the forest service to manage the land, provide access, etc. I do not think that in general, backpackers are getting anything more out of the land than hikers or hunters, when it comes to the ability to access public land, see that land be maintained, protected from development, and walk and drive around within the borders of these land areas.

Hunting fees, wood chopping fees, etc are in place as "taxes" because you are paying more to get something more from the land, be it food or fuel. In return for the fees, you are getting additional regulation for scarcer resources, and paying for the people that enforce the limitations. Oil companies extract a limited fuel source and have to pay to get access to it.

In some places you do pay a backpacking tax, which is commonly known as permits, for places where you are paying for relative solitude, a camping spot in limited camping areas (like the Grand Canyon) and in some places, human waste facilities and cleanup efforts, in return for your opportunity to visit. In places that aren't overcrowded, the limitation isn't there and you don't pay permit fees.

I think that certain places that have resources that would be/are being overused by people with no regulations (Reavis Ranch, Fossil Creek, Aravaipa, West Fork Oak Creek) ultimately benefit from the additional regulation and permits in reducing visitation, while in many other places it isn't necessary due to lack of demand. However, as the human population increases to 10, 15, and 25 billion people, eventually every resource on earth will be limited and everything, backpacking, and even hiking will be taxed via fees and permits, etc. So it is more a question of when it will happen, than whether it is right to have a tax.
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by Nighthiker » Feb 28 2017 12:43 pm

Lets start with returning the Arizona Heritage Fund to the Arizona State Parks and keeping the Arizona State Parks Board.
The State Lake Improvement Fund used for State Lake Improvement Projects only.
OHV funding for OHV projects only not to pay overtime for law enforcement during holidays.
Alternative transportation funding for trails and bicycles not parking lots and bus stop kiosks.
Reassign the Utah Congressional delegation members on the Natural Resource's Committee so funding can be restored to the public land management agencies and allow and direct those agencies to include the management of promoting and developing recreation (manage people not special interest).
Sales tax on outdoor gear much like the folks who hunt and fish on their gear with this revenue stream only used for outdoor recreation on our public lands and not to be appropriated for other use.
jk

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chumley
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Re: Backpack Tax

Post by chumley » Mar 10 2017 3:02 pm

The writer of this editorial published yesterday is the CEO of Patagonia (known as Patagucci to many). He doesn't mention the "backpack tax" but points out that those interested in preserving public lands are a large economic force and despite having different backgrounds need to pool their collective interests toward the common goal.
Some 91% of Westerners agree that national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other federal lands are essential to their state’s economic prosperity, but Americans who support protecting public lands are badly splintered. Hunters and anglers love and value our public lands, but the “hook and bullet” crowd scares off environmentalists and some businesspeople. Environmentalists love and value our public lands, but hardcore activists scare off most businesspeople and some hunters and anglers. Businesspeople love and value our public lands, but lots of folks get skeptical when corporations are involved in advocacy.

We need to work together to protect our public lands.
I laughed at the "lots of folks get skeptical when corporations are involved in advocacy" line. I think Patagonia has a far better record than most companies, but this guy's company and livelihood is directly affected by getting more people outside. Not to say that's a bad thing. Just that it's definitely easy to be skeptical when he's the one saying it.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la ... story.html

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