Contact: Mike Ahrens, OHV Program Coordinator, Barstow BLM (760) 252-6000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT ANNOUNCES RECREATION FEE DEMONSTRATION PROGRAM AT FOUR POPULAR OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE RIDING AREAS BARSTOW, CA (Aug. 4, 2003) - The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Barstow Field Office announced today that it will implement a Recreation Fee Demonstration Program for four popular desert off-highway vehicle riding areas effective Oct. 1, 2003, according to Mike Ahrens, off-highway vehicle coordinator for the Barstow BLM. Ahrens said the riding areas to be included in the recreation fee program are Dumont Dunes with 10,000 acres; Johnson Valley, the world's largest designated OHV area with 188,000 acres; Stoddard Valley with 53,000 acres, and El Mirage with 25,000 acres. The 22,000-acre Rasor riding area will continue to be a free area. Nearly one-half million OHV enthusiasts visit these areas each year. "Clearly, this was not an easy decision for the Bureau," Ahrens said, "but with a projected shortfall of more than $2.5 million each year, we simply can't provide quality services for our visitors. Funding from the federal government and California OHV trust fund have continually decreased over the past decade, so these new fees will provide riding opportunities and services requested by our customers." Under the recreation fee program, visitors will be charged $20 for a weekly pass or $60 for an annual pass for their primary vehicle. Ahrens said the pass would be accepted at all four OHV sites. "While we are still working out some of the collection method details," said Ahrens, "we can say we are planning off-site collection via the Internet and various vendor locations. Weekly passes purchased off-site will be discounted $5, passing along the reduced collection cost to the visitor. We will contract to have self-pay machines, handheld card readers and vendors at on-site entrance stations for those choosing to purchase weekly passes at the riding areas." Congress authorized the Department of Interior and its subordinate agencies such as the BLM to initiate the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program in 1996 in order to keep pace with the rising costs of managing recreation sites. "This recreation fee demo program stands out among all of our collection programs because all of the revenues are returned to the sites to improve the quality of visitor experience," Ahrens said. Some of the services to be provided by the additional funds will include increased law enforcement at El Mirage and Dumont Dunes and increased law enforcement staffing for special events at all of the sites. Additionally, the funding will provide for additional emergency medical technicians/park rangers at El Mirage, Dumont Dunes and special events as well as more maintenance personnel for maintaining OHV access roads, maintenance on the toilets, signing and kiosk repairs and litter removal. "Over the past several years, we have sought input from the public by holding open houses and public meetings to find out exactly what kind of opportunities they would like to have and what improvements are needed," said Ahrens. "So, we can say our customers have been very involved in determining how the money will be used." "The Bureau's management of this new recreation fee demonstration program can only succeed with participation and support of the off-highway vehicle community," Ahrens said. "The fee demonstration program provides the recreating public the opportunity to invest in local BLM facilities and our public lands." For more information on the Barstow BLM's recreation fee demonstration program, contact Mike Ahrens at (760) 252-6000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.