WASHINGTON, DC – It looks like the Interior Department is backing off on a plan to aggressively increase entrance fees at Glacier, Yellowstone and other national parks, this summer after an avalanche of public opposition.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had proposed the increase last year, saying the fee hikes were needed to generate more revenue from park visitors. It’s money he believes is needed to “catch up’ with a backlog of park maintenance and improvement projects.
Secretary Zinke’s original plan would have hiked park entrance fees to as much as $70 per car during the peak summer season at Glacier, Yellowstone and 15 of the other busiest parks. That would’ve been a 34% boost in park revenues from the current fees which average $25 per car.
However, thousands of people attacked the idea. The Washington Post is reporting of the 50,000 comments the paper obtained, the vast majority criticized the rate hikes, calling them “insane”, saying they would reconsider their family vacation plans if the increases went through as proposed.
An Interior Department Official told the Washington Post some type of increase is still likely but says the agency is also considering how to revise the proposal.
"Our ultimate goal when it comes to entrance fees is to make sure the parks get 80% of that revenue … but we also don’t want to put a burden on our visitors. We believe there is room to increase the fees and the annual passes," the official said.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said the fee increase would help the Park Service address a nearly $12 billion backlog of maintenance projects.
Opponents of the plan, such as the National Parks Conservation Association, say the Trump administration also proposed cutting funding for the Park Service in its budgets, and that the increase would address only a small fraction of the backlog.
Such a steep increase could also "limit families’ ability to enjoy our parks" and hurt businesses that rely on park attendance, NPCA said.