October 25, 2017

Van Hollen, Colleagues To Trump Administration: National Parks Are For All Americans— Not Just The Wealthy

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and 10 other senators wrote to Secretary Zinke requesting he withdraw his proposal to dramatically increase national park entrance fees and to provide Congress with the analysis and justification used.

On October 24, the National Park Service announced a proposal to almost triple the peak season entrance fees at 17 of the most popular national parks. Beginning in 2018, fees to enter these parks during the 5-most-popular months would jump from $25-$30 to $70 per vehicle. The entrance fee increases would impact: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, and Joshua Tree National Parks.

Coming only one year after our national parks saw record visitation following its Centennial Anniversary, the fee increases proposed by Secretary Zinke will price out many visitors and deny American families the opportunity to visit and experience some of our nation's most popular and iconic national parks.

In 2016, 331 million national park visitors contributed an estimated $18.4 billion to local economies across the country. These expenditures supported a total of 318.1 thousand jobs, $12 billion in labor income, $19.9 billion in value added, and $34.9 billion in economic output nationally.

In 2016, over 47 million park visitors generated an estimated $6.5 million in economic output in the local economies that would be affected by the fee increase.

In the letter the Senators wrote, "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."

"The National Park Service describes the fee increases "as part of its commitment to improve the visitor experience..." 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," said the Senators."This proposal seems directly contrary to your often-stated goal of improving public access to our public lands."

"The administration should stop subsidizing oil, gas, and coal companies for the exploitation of public resources and instead work to ensure that taxpayers receive a fair value for the commercial use and development of public resources."

The letter was also signed by Senators Cantwell (D-Wash.), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Wyden (D-Ore.), Udall (D-N.M.), Murray (D-Wash.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), Harris (D-Calif.), Kaine (D-Va.), and Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The full letter can be found here.