Speak Up: Proposed National Park Fee Increase Would Price Out Many

The National Park Service is considering a fee increase in 17 parks, including Mount Rainier and Olympic. Under the proposal, vehicle entrance fees would rise from $25 to $70 per day. A public comment period is underway.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
October 27, 2017

What happens if visiting national parks becomes prohibitively expensive? Fewer people have the opportunity to fall in love with and become champions of wild places – and our public lands suffer as a result.

The National Park Service (NPS) has proposed a fee increase targeting the country’s 17 most visited national parks. In an announcement made on October 26, the NPS recommended increasing entrance fees to $70 per vehicle during peak visiting season. The plan would nearly triple the cost of a visit to Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks, which currently charge $25.

The public has through December 22nd to comment on the proposal. Please join The Mountaineers in asking the National Park Service not to move forward with the fee increase.

We are concerned  the fee increase would:

  • Deter people, particularly those with limited funds, from experiencing public lands
  • Negatively impact local economies due to fewer visitors contributing to recreational tourism
  • Still not fix funding issues facing national parks - the proposal hopes to generate $68 million in revenue, but doesn't come close to addressing Congress’s chronic underfunding of our public lands
  • Advance the public lands heist, which seeks to undermine public lands and visitor experiences in favor of private interests

Our national parks belong to all Americans – and all Americans should be able to visit them.

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The Numbers Don’t Add Up

Our national parks have faced chronic underfunding from Congress for years, accruing a backlog of $11,300,000,000 in maintenance needs. In the face of this comprehensive deficit, the proposed fee hike aims to generate a mere $68 million. A $70 vehicle entrance fee is enough deter people from experiencing our national parks - or at the very least hurt their perception of public lands - but it’s nowhere near enough to fix the funding issues.

Plus, there’s a better alternative. The National Park Service Legacy Act has bipartisan support in Congress, and if passed, would allocate a percentage of federal mineral revenue for National Park maintenance.

At The Mountaineers, we have advocated continuously for National Park funding, and this year we proposed innovative solutions to our Washington delegation (many of which are in the National Park Service Legacy Act). We recognize that fees are a necessary part of the picture. In 2014, we supported modest fee increases in Olympic and Mount Rainier National Park. However, this increase is a huge price jump that will deter visitors, weaken the economies of nearby communities, and hurt public lands in the long run.

Equity and Access

At The Mountaineers, we know how important wild places are to our mental and physical well-being. Experiencing nature shouldn’t come with a price tag that discourages newcomers and bars our most underserved populations.  

As Joe Camacho of Latino Outdoors, a local nonprofit that works to connect more Latino residents with outdoor recreation, told the Seattle Times, “Having this fee go to 70 bucks? I see that as a huge deterrent. It hurts people who don’t traditionally have access to parks more than those that do.”

Our public lands should be accessible to all Americans - not just the wealthy.

The Big Picture

The fee increase is part of a broader effort we call the Public Lands Heist. Ultimately the Heist aims to weaken public lands until they can be transferred to private interests. The National Park Service is under the umbrella of the Department of Interior, so it important to note that this order comes from the top. The same administration asking for $68 million from National Park visitors also proposes a budget that would cut Department of the Interior funding by $1.5 BILLION.

Whether it’s an executive order targeting National Monuments, a bill mandating resource extraction over recreation, or an entrance fee hike that squelches citizen support, our public lands are facing threats from all sides. The Mountaineers works hard to advocate for our public lands and to offer opportunities for you to lend your voice to this effort. Visit our Public Lands Heist page to learn more.

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