Press Statement: National Park Service’s Proposed Entrance Fee Increase is a Further Challenge for Improved Access for Diverse Communities
Washington, D.C. — In October, the Department of the Interior proposed fee increases for entrance to seventeen of our nation’s most visited national parks, including Yosemite, Grand Tetons, Acadia, and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, to start as early as the 2018 peak season. The proposal seeks to increase fees by 180% from $25 per vehicle to $70 during peak seasons. The Next 100 Coalition is strongly opposed to this proposal, as it imposes additional challenges for diverse low-income communities seeking to access our nation’s public lands.
The Next 100 Coalition, a network of grassroots, environmental justice, and civil rights organizations, believes the impacts of the fee increases will far outweigh benefits. The Coalition’s long-term vision includes the provision of abundant opportunities for people, especially those from low-income communities, to enjoy the cultural, social, and health benefits of our public lands. The fee increases will instead discourage those communities from taking advantage of such benefits.
According to Secretary Zinke, the increases are necessary to address the ever-growing infrastructure, maintenance, and upkeep backlog at our national parks, which totals more than $12 billion. The National Park Service estimates that these increased fees will generate $70 million annually in revenues that would be available for reducing the backlog. However, the decision to increase fees is being made without any publicly shared analysis regarding the expected impact of increased fees on overall attendance and revenue. While addressing the maintenance backlog is a critical issue, doing so by further impeding the ability of diverse communities to access these places is morally wrong and un-American.
In our view, the current proposal fails to secure adequate long-term funding to rebuild critical park infrastructure and support general maintenance as it is intended to do. Instead, the proposal disregards previous federal guidance to improve existing programs to increase visitation and access to public lands, particularly low income, people of color, disabled populations and tribal communities. It also ignores the Secretary’s own Order to give “greater priority to recruiting and retaining sportsmen and women conservationists, with an emphasis on engaging youth, veterans, minorities, and underserved communities that traditionally have low participation in outdoor recreation activities”.
The Next 100 Coalition urges Secretary Zinke to withdraw the proposed increases and instead work with Members of Congress and other key stakeholders to identify better funding mechanisms to restore our parks as the playgrounds that all of us can enjoy.
We encourage all Americans to provide input on this proposal during the public comment open through November 27th via NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment.