Committee Dems to Zinke: Increasing the Fees at National Parks Defies Interior’s Mission to Improve Access to Public Lands

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and 10 Committee Democrats sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke opposing the National Park Service (NPS) proposal to increase the entrance fees at 17 of its most popular national parks. The members state that the dramatic increases to entrance fees will discourage lower income Americans from visiting and enjoying public lands. Our most popular national parks, like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, should be focused on broadening access and encouraging diverse communities to visit their parks, not limit access.

Ranking Member Grijalva spoke out against the NPS fee increase earlier this year and accused Secretary Zinke of hiking up entrance fees to make up for his steep budget cuts. The letter urges Zinke to work with Congress on the budget, it states in part:

The NPS news release announcing the fee increase described the move as designed to “improve the visitor experience and increase revenue to help address the deferred maintenance backlog.” Congress never intended for entrance fees to become a priority revenue stream for national parks. The deferred or backlog maintenance for these 17 parks currently totals $2.7 billion. Even if NPS can obtain the projected $68 million the Department expects from the fee hike, which is not certain, the parks will only retain approximately $54 million, or 2 percent of the total deferred maintenance. This is not a reasonable justification for the proposed spike in entrance fees. The reality is that any meaningful effort to address the growing backlog of deferred maintenance projects will require additional appropriations from Congress. The administration should be working more closely with Congress to fund the National Park System as it was intended to be funded, not shifting the burden onto visitors.

The National Park Conservation Association and more than 80 businesses and community representatives near national parks across the country also sent a letter to Secretary Zinke yesterday speaking out against the massive fee increases.

The Committee letter to Zinke is available at, http://bit.ly/2DnCkP1

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