Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Arizona Park Fees Rise

As reported on A DC Birding Blog, Arizona has recently raised the cost of its recreational (i.e. birding and hiking as opposed to hunting and fishing) state park permit from $15 per individual and $20 for a family to $50 and $75, respectively.

That's bad, but who gets hurt the most? People who can't afford the $50. Who's that? Well, in Arizona, it's likely to be Hispanics.

According to this and this(.pdf), 1.5 million Hispanics live in Arizona, making up 28% of the state's population. The national poverty rate among Hispanics is almost twice the national average: 26.6% compared to 15.4%. Simple economics dictates that when you rise the cost of something, you will lose those consumers who are no longer willing or able to pay the new price.

Although it's not something that pleasant to admit, birding is one of the least diverse activities there is. This great study, Relative Prevalence of African Americans Among Bird Watchers(.pdf), says that one of the major factors that keeps African-Americans away from birding is that they are less likely to be exposed to birding and birders as other people. The phenomenon is called the Don't Loop: when you don't meet people who engage in an activity you are less likely to participate in that activity yourself.

African-Americans, like Hispanics, are another minority in this country with higher-than-average poverty rates. It's possible that a study on Hispanics and birding would find similar results. Raising state park fees by more than 300%, then, can only further disenfranchise Hispanics from birding by making is less likely that they can be introduced to or participate in the activity.

For some, raising fees to state parks may be more than just an annoyance, but a barrier to experiencing public (yes, public) lands and outdoor activities.


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