U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines cosponsored the bipartisan “Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong Act,” or “LAKES Act” to improve outdoor recreation facilities in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)-managed areas by providing opportunities for public-private investments and giving local districts more flexibility to reinvest their resources.
“Outdoor recreation is part of our Montana way of life,” said Senator Daines. “Allowing local Army Corps sites greater control to invest recreation fees in boat ramp, dock and campsite maintenance and improvements will help protect and expand access to Montana’s lakes in order to support surrounding communities and allow Montanans to pass down an appreciation for the outdoors to future generations.”
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% 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.
Read bill text HERE.
Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have supported this legislation along with Senator Daines.