Increasing entrance fees would harm gateway communities that depend on park visitors.
Washington, D.C. — More than 80 businesses and community representatives near national parks from across the country joined National Parks Conservation Association to send a letter to Secretary Zinke this week speaking out against massive fee increases, as the public comment deadline nears.
This Friday, December 22 is the last day to submit a public comment on the Trump administration’s proposal to increase fees threefold to as high as $70 during peak seasons at 17 of our most visited national parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Acadia. The administration has stated that Joshua Tree National Park could experience a drastic fee increase as soon as possible in 2018, with many of the other proposed parks implementing the new fee structure by May or June of 2018.
“American families should not be forced to pay for what Congress and the administration have failed to,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “The solution to our parks’ repair needs cannot be pricing some visitors out of them, and hurting the local economies that rely on them. We implore Secretary Zinke to take into full consideration the comments submitted by Americans across the country, including those from local businesses. If this administration wants to fix our parks’ budget challenges, it must commit to working with Congress to adequately fund parks, including passing the National Park Service Legacy Act.”
The outdoor industry is a powerful force in support of America’s economy, with consumers spending $887 billion annually on outdoor recreation. In 2016, the 17 national parks included in the fee proposal supported $6.7 billion in economic activity and supported more than 75,000 private-sector jobs. If the fee increase is implemented as proposed, local businesses across the country could lose millions of dollars in lost visitor spending. According to a study released last month by the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, gateway communities around Yellowstone alone could lose $3.4 million.
Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), a membership-driven trade organization for the outdoor industry argues that doubling or tripling fees could make these parks unaffordable for people to visit, which would negatively impact gateway communities and the nation’s outdoor recreation economy. “OIA encourages anyone, whether you are an outdoor recreation business, member of the general public or gateway community resident to submit a comment encouraging the administration and Congress to work on a solution that avoids drastic fee increases and appropriately funds the iconic national treasures that truly set our nation apart from the rest of the world – our parks,” said Amy Roberts, Executive Director of Outdoor Industry Association.
While the administration states the revenue generated from the increase will help pay for the Park Service’s $11.3 billion in needed park repairs, the amount collected from increased fees would address less than one percent of the backlogged maintenance and infrastructure needs. At the same time as proposing these massive fee increases, the administration has proposed the largest budget cut to the National Park Service since World War II.
The public has until December 22 at midnight (MT) to weigh in on the proposal. Comments can be submitted on the Park Service’s official comment page. To learn more about the National Park Service Legacy Act, a bipartisan legislation that would address the $11.3 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service, visit here.
Businesses from across the country are making their voices heard:
“My business, Skinny Skis, is located in Jackson, Wyoming—at the gateway to two spectacular national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone,” said Phil Leeds, co-owner of Skinny Skis. “Increased Park funding is absolutely necessary, but should be done carefully and should include discussions with local businesses, non-profit groups, local government and the public at large. Together we can formulate a long-term strategy that will work for all.”
“I am not sure tripling the entrance fee is the best way to proceed, especially for families,” said Ann Langenberg-Miller, owner of Denali Dome Home Bed & Breakfast in Healy, Alaska. “I love Denali National Park. It also means an enormous amount to Alaska economically. Families who take the shuttles into Denali National Park will become the national park’s strongest fans for the future. They will get hit the hardest. Before any increase is put in place, local businesses and community members and families should be included in the conversation.”
“The Grand County Economic Development Office and the Grand County Tourism Board are deeply concerned about the impact of the proposed increases in entrance fees and commercial vehicle fees into Rocky Mountain National Park,” said Dede Fay, Sales Director for the Grand County Tourism Board. “We strongly urge the NPS to reconsider the proposed fee increase in favor of a more responsible, inclusive, and comprehensive funding strategy that factor in differences in the visitation bases of our unique national treasures.”
“The proposed national park fee increases will not only impact visitors to our national parks, but the proposed fee increase for commercial operators will impact the regional economy and be devastating to small wildlife and road based tour companies,” said Ken Sinay, Director of Yellowstone Safari Company. “Considering national park related tourism in the state of Montana is approaching 10,000 jobs and 762 million dollars in economic output, it seems absurd that this segment of our economy is being threatened. Economic survival in Montana is about innovation, creativity, and hard work. I suspect some good ideas would surface if the regional businesses impacted would be considered and consulted.“
About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
About Outdoor Industry Association: Based in Boulder, Colo., with offices in Washington, D.C., Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is the leading trade association for the outdoor industry and the title sponsor of Outdoor Retailer. OIA unites and serves over 1300 manufacturer, supplier, sales representative and retailer members through its focus on trade and recreation policy, sustainable business innovation and outdoor participation. For more information, visit outdoorindustry.org or call 303.444.3353.
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