The Interior Department is considering increasing entry fees at more than a dozen of the country's most popular national parks as a way to raise new revenue for infrastructure improvements.
Interior officials proposed instituting higher peak-season fees at 17 national parks during their busiest five-month periods.
The new fees, if put in place, would affect popular parks across the country, from Acadia National Park in Maine to Denali National Park in Alaska. The agency said the higher fees would “help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting.”
“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund unveils first midterm endorsements Trump's relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook Watchdog: Trump official boosted former employer in Interior committee membership MORE said in a statement.
“We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids' grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today. Shoring up our parks' aging infrastructure will do that.”
President Trump proposed cutting the National Park Service’s budget by 12.9 percent this year, despite concerns from officials within the department and in Congress about the state of the Park Service’s infrastructure.
Democrats came out swinging against the proposal on Tuesday.
“Secretary Zinke would rather take money directly out of the pockets of hardworking Americans instead of coming up with a serious budget proposal for the National Park System,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“We should be encouraging more people to get outdoors and enjoy our great natural wonders instead of discouraging them by raising park entrance fees.”
Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellUS lawmakers weigh new COVID-19 stimulus funding for businesses Senate whistleblower report alleges oversight problems with aerospace industry safety On The Money — Senate risks Trump's ire with debt ceiling deal MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, tied the rate hike to the controversy surrounding a private flight Zinke chartered earlier this year.
“While Secretary Zinke flies around on private jets using our taxpayer dollars, he is hiking up the fees all American families pay to enjoy our National Parks,” she said.
The proposed higher fees would impact the following national parks as soon as next year: Acadia, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion.