WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and nine senators wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke calling into question the National Park Service’s proposal to triple national park entrance fees. In addition, the senators requested that Zinke provide Congress with the analysis and justification used to establish the proposed park entrance fee increases.
“We are unable to see how doubling or tripling a park entrance fee is anything other than an effort to exclude many Americans from enjoying their national parks,” the senators wrote in their letter. “This proposal seems directly contrary to your often-stated goal of improving public access to our public lands.”
On October 24, the National Park Service (NPS) announced a proposal to more than triple the entrance fees beginning in 2018 for 17 of its most popular parks during their five-month-long peak seasons. Under the proposed plan, fees will increase from $25 per vehicle to $70 per vehicle for Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks beginning May 1, 2018.
Many families who have limited income are currently able to take advantage of our national parks and the outdoor recreation experiences they provide. An increase of fees at this rate could price out many visitors and deny American families the opportunity to visit our nation’s most popular landmarks and public spaces.
“We believe that it is especially problematic for your Department to propose fee increases at the same time that the Trump Administration is recommending slashing National Park Service funding levels and holding virtual fire-sales on our public resources at below market value,” wrote the senators.
In 2016, 331 million park visitors spent an estimated $18.4 billion in local gateway regions while visiting NPS lands across the country. These expenditures supported a total of 318,000 jobs and $34.9 billion in economic activity in the national economy.
In 2016, nearly 3.4 million people visited Olympic National Park, putting it in the top ten most visited parks. Mount Rainier National Park saw more than 1.4 million visitors in 2016.
The letter was also signed by Senators Hirono (D-HI), Wyden (D-OR), Udall (D-NM), Sanders (I-VT), Heinrich (D-NM), Harris (D-CA), Kaine (D-VA), Feinstein (D-CA), and Van Hollen (D-MD).
The full letter can be found here.