The 1968 Land and Water Conservation Fund Act Amendment
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was supposed to realize an average $65 million a year over the first ten years from visitor fees, assuming the Golden Eagle permit were priced at only $5. With the permit actually priced 40 percent higher, revenues should have been significantly greater. Instead, they were less-much less, with no prospect of rising anywhere near the forecasted figure.
In 1967 the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation hired a consulting firm, Arthur D. Little, Inc., to study the problem and come forth with recommendations. The Little report, submitted that December, advocated greater emphasis on advance sales of the Golden Eagle and greater availability of the permit at commercial outlets and post offices, with a major advertising campaign to promote its sale. It proposed a complicated system of permits for single areas and single day visits costing insignificantly less than $7, the object being to encourage general purchase of the Golden Eagle in advance. Heavy enforcement, including "impounding of vehicles improperly present in Federal recreation areas," would further compliance. If its recommendations were adopted, the Little report suggested that annual fee income could be raised from an estimated $12 million in 1969 to $33 million--still far short of what was predicted at the outset of the program. 
In February 1968 the House and Senate Interior committees held hearings on bills amending the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. Their primary objective was to bring new revenue into the shaky fund; Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing receipts were earmarked for this purpose. During the legislative process there was much discussion of the inadequacies of the visitor fee system that had originally been envisioned as the fund's major revenue source. Of the several fee collecting bureaus, only the National Park Service had produced enough money to justify its participation; the Corps of Engineers was least supportive of the major recreation area managers.
"I just do not believe it is equitable for the National Park Service...to have to use its moneys that it collects, and believes in collecting them, to help finance operations by the Corps of Engineers," said Representative Wayne N. Aspinall of Colorado, chairman of the House Interior Committee, at the House hearing. He opposed pooling the fee revenues, proposing instead that each agency's receipts be kept in a separate account for its exclusive benefit. Spencer M. Smith of the Citizens Committee on Natural Resources dissented, fearing that such an arrangement would exacerbate interagency competition. Representative Roy A. Taylor, now chairman of the Parks and Recreation Subcommittee, reiterated his general opposition to entrance fees while complaining, with Representative James A. McClure of Idaho, that the universal $7 permit was too great a bargain from a revenue standpoint. At the corresponding Senate hearings, Senators A. S. Mike Monroney and Fred R. Harris of Oklahoma were especially negative about fees for Corps of Engineers reservoir access and facilities. 
Asked to comment on the proposed abolition of the interagency fee system after the hearings, the National Park Service straddled the issue:
The Interior Department, to which the Service's comment was addressed, took a less equivocal stand in officially responding to Chairman Aspinall on the House committee's proposed amendments:
If the uniform system were to be deauthorized, Interior requested language requiring all agencies to charge recreation fees whenever economically feasible:
In a simultaneous communication to Aspinall, the Bureau of the Budget conceded that visitor fee revenues had fallen short of expectations and that experience had shown the impracticality of collecting at some areas. "Because of both these factors," it wrote, "we are asking the Federal agencies, under the leadership of the Department of the Interior, to reevaluate the present fee system with the objective of devising a revised system" that would be internally consistent, widely applicable, and more profitable. The Budget Bureau supported Interior's request for a two-year extension of the present system while this review was in process. 
Within Interior, the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife had expressed concern that the proposed separate bureau accounts for fee receipts would be prejudicial to regular appropriations, despite a disclaimer of such an effect in the House committee's bill. (The Park Service, whose much greater receipts could enable it to profit far more from this arrangement, was evidently willing to take this chance.) The Budget Bureau came out against the separate account provision: "[It] would seem to have little practical value and would substantially further complicate administration of the Fund." 
On March 29 the Senate committee reported its bill, which left the existing fee system intact. Its report restated its commitment to the concept of visitor fees, while accepting the need for a subsequent review of the system then in effect:
The bill reported by the House committee a month later provided for repeal of the interagency fee system effective April 1, 1969. The House committee's report reviewed the situation as it had developed and justified the position taken:
On the House floor, Representative Aspinall chastised those who had undermined the existing fee system and spoke positively of the incentive to individual agencies provided by his committee's amendment:
The House and Senate passed their respective bills, which were finally reconciled by a conference committee report agreed to on July 2. Another Oklahoman, Representative Ed Edmondson, spoke out against any entrance fees before the final vote, but the compromise accorded essentially with the House committee version allowing each agency to set its own fees. The repeal date for the interagency system was extended to April 1, 1970: "This will give the administration an extra year in which to satisfy its critics, if it can do so, that the Government-wide system of user and admission fees can be made to work," said Aspinall in speaking for the compromise. 
The resulting Public Law 90-401, approved by President Johnson July 15, 1968, rescued the Land and Water Conservation Fund by authorizing the addition of sufficient revenues from Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing to bring the fund to a total of $200 million annually. More relevant to the present study is its language on visitor fees. Although it repealed the authority for the universal fee system in the original Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, by setting the effective date more than a year and a half ahead it left open the door for reconsideration. In lieu of the repealed authority, the act provided clear support and at least theoretical incentive for fee collection by individual agencies:
For one agency, the Corps of Engineers, this provision quickly became a dead letter. Thanks to Representative Edmondson, the Flood Control Act of 1968 was enacted on August 31 with a Section 210 prohibiting entrance fees at all Corps recreation areas as of April 1, 1970.  On the basis of the act's legislative history and a subsequent resolution by the House Public Works Committee, the Corps discontinued user fees immediately and entrance fees that October, much to the chagrin of those still hoping for continuation of the interagency system.
1"Marketing Study and Recommendations Concerning Federal Recreation Area Permit and Fee System," Report to Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, December 1967.
2U.S., Congress, House, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Land and Water Conservation Fund Act Amendments, Hearings on H.R. 8578 et al., 90th Congress, 2d Session, Feb. 6, 7, 21 and Mar. 4, 1968, pp. 162-63, 168, 175, 183-84; U.S., Congress, Senate, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Land and Water Conservation Fund Act Amendments, Hearings on S. 1401 et al., 90th Congress, 2d Session, Feb. 5, 6, and 21, 1968, pp. 16-31.