Backing Interior Away from Steep National Park Fee Hike
Yosemite. Yellowstone. Grand Canyon. Zion. These national parks are iconic symbols of the beauty of the United States, and our dedication to protecting our most beautiful landmarks. Since their creation in the late 19th century, national parks have become a very big deal—for the U.S., and for the visitors from around the world who love them.
And they’re a big deal for good reason. The National Park Service (NPS) designates and preserves our lands, creates equal access to the outdoors for all Americans, and ensures these natural spaces will exist far into the future-not just for latter generations, but also, for the integrity of the land itself.
What’s not to like? Maybe paying $70 to take your family on a visit.
In October of 2017, NPS proposed a controversial idea: increase the entry fee of the 17 most visited national parks in the U.S., with fees at the most popular parks jumping from $30 to $70.
The idea of pricing millions of Americans out of visiting these beloved spaces is wholly un-American. Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision prioritizes money over public access, and further undermines the challenges facing low-income families and individuals. National parks should be for everyone, and affordability should not be a deterrent.
The price hike idea was announced as a way for the NPS to create much-needed revenue for a $12 billion backlog of maintenance costs. While national park fees are necessary, this price increase would force people to pay twice the amount they were paying before.
Such excessive costs not only make visiting national parks less affordable for many, they set a terrible precedent: that Americans will consistently have to pay more to visit the lands that have been set aside for them.
Naturally, outdoor enthusiasts and families everywhere were upset by the announcement.
National parks should be for everyone, and affordability should not be a deterrent.
Friends of the Earth and our activists and members stood up for the rights of the American people to affordably access spaces we all care about. We shared our message publicly, we emailed our dedicated members to take action, and we used live interviews to raise the alarm.
And our members spoke out—over 54,000 of you—flooding the NPS comment period with bold statements rejecting these excessive price hikes.
Now, the NPS under the Trump Administration is balking at their own demands. With over 100,000 comments submitted from concerned citizens just like you, the Department of Interior (DOI) is forced to reconsider its controversial plan. Even Interior Secretary Zinke is backpedaling, saying that alternatives are now being considered during a recent Senate meeting.
This move away from such a steep price increase is a victory for parkgoers everywhere.
Low fees ensure our treasured public lands do not become playgrounds for the affluent alone: national parks are an honored American legacy–precisely because they ensure access regardless of income level, race or demographic.
Forcing a powerful agency to backtrack on their questionable agenda shows just how powerful your activism can be.
You spoke up, and Secretary Zinke and the Department of the Interior were forced to listen.