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Refuge taking comments on proposed changes to fee program

By Staff | Apr 4, 2019

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is accepting public comments on proposed changes to its recreation fee structure.

Since 1987, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has had the authority to collect recreation fees. Since 1997, it has been able to retain fees collected at the station, first under the authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act. The FLREA was established to provide funding for recreation program improvements. Typical projects paid for by recreation fee funds include road and visitor facility maintenance, brochure and interpretive material production, and law enforcement.

When the fee program was established at the refuge in 1987, the entrance fees collected were $3 per vehicle. In 1993, they were increased to $4 per vehicle, then were raised to $5 per vehicle in 1998.

To better manage the use of refuge facilities and to be able to continue to improve facilities for the visiting public, the refuge is proposing the following changes to its recreation fee structure:

– Raise the refuge-specific annual pass from $12 to $25

– Raise the vehicle fee from $5 to $10 (one-day pass from Oct. 1 to April 30; three-day pass from May 1 to Sept. 30)

– Eliminate the $1 entrance fee for hikers and bicyclists

A recreation fee analysis has been completed by refuge staff, and the proposed fees are based on what other nearby recreational facilities and National Wildlife Refuges charge. The refuge is proposing to implement the fee changes on Oct. 1, 2020.

The refuge is interested in hearing from the public regarding the proposed fee structure, and is requesting public comments through May 31. All comments will be reviewed and considered before a final decision is made on the implementation of the proposed fee structure.

In addition, the refuge will host a public meeting on April 9 at 1 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. inside the Visitor and Education Center, at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel. The public is encouraged to attend.

To submit a comment, contact dingdarling@fws.gov or 239-472-1100. People can also mail their comments to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957.