And you thought your Recreation.gov user fees were funding National Parks

  • April 6, 2023
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Nope (As National Parks Visits Surge, Booz Allen Benefits): 

Visitors driving into Montana’s Glacier National Park this summer must buy a vehicle pass on Recreation.gov. The pass is free, but visitors pay a $2 fee to book the reservation.

Visitors might assume that, like entrance fees, the reservation charges help pay for improving trails around the park’s Running Eagle Falls or expanding the park’s volunteer program. But a chunk of the money ends up with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

Booz Allen runs Recreation.gov, the website and app where people book campsites, hikes and permits on U.S. public land. The company has a five-year contract that is up for renewal this year. In its bid for the work, Booz Allen used data provided by the government to estimate that over the first five years of the contract, it would receive $87 million, and a total of about $182 million over 10 years.

Booz Allen gets paid every time a user makes a reservation on Recreation.gov, per its government contract. That has earned the company money far beyond the projections in its bid.

Booz Allen invoiced the government for more than $140 million from October 2018 to November 2022, the most recent date available, according to documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal in a public-records request. Ten months remain to be counted for that initial five-year period.

You all are a bunch of suckers:

Booz Allen leadership has described the benefits of per-transaction fee structures like the one Recreation.gov uses. “One thing I learned in B-school, for all that money, it’s a small number times a big number is a big number,” Booz Allen president and chief executive Horacio Rozanski said at the 2019 Citi Global Technology Conference. …

The arrangement has its critics, including members of a lawsuit against Booz Allen seeking class-action status, and other die-hard national park visitors. They say the government has let a multibillion-dollar company profit by charging for access to public lands—access that used to cost less, or nothing. The lawyers said in the suit that the company is “forcing American consumers to pay Ticketmaster-style junk fees to access national parks and other federal recreational lands.”

Booz Allen says such claims mischaracterize its work and its compensation structure. Recreation.gov officials say the arrangement is an example of efficiency in government: Users get a technologically sound website at no cost to taxpayers. …

At that point I tuned out Booz Allen while reading the rest of the article, wondering why infrastructure at the Blue Ridge Parkway is underfunded when Booz Allen is getting rich but you should read it and decide for yourself. 

Here are a couple of links: 

National Parks Continue to Set Visitation Records but Remain Underfunded and Understaffed
Recreation.gov Use & Share Our Data

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