October 30, 2017

Kaine, Colleagues Urge Trump Administration To Withdraw Proposal To Increase National Park Visitor Fees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and nine other colleagues in a letter to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke requesting he withdraw his proposal to dramatically increase national park entrance fees at 17 national parks pending further review. According to the proposal, Shenandoah National Park visitor fees would increase dramatically from $25 to $70 per vehicle during peak season.

“The National Park Service describes the fee increases 'as part of its commitment to improve the visitor experience…' We are unable to see how doubling or tripling a park entrance fee is anything other than an effort to exclude many Americans from enjoying their national parks. This proposal seems directly contrary to your often-stated goal of improving public access to our public lands,” wrote the Senators.

“We request that you provide us with the analysis and justification used to establish the proposed park entrance fees to allow Congress to assess the rationale and need for any fee increase. Pending this review, we ask you to withdraw the proposed park fee increases and work to support a strong National Park Service budget that will ensure that all Americans have affordable access to their parks,” the Senators concluded.

In addition to Shenandoah, the proposal would almost triple the peak season entrance fees at 16 other popular national parks. Beginning in 2018, fees to enter these parks during the 5-most-popular months would jump from $25-$30 to $70 per vehicle. The entrance fee increases would also impact: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Joshua Tree National Parks.

Coming only one year after our national parks saw record visitation following its Centennial Anniversary, the fee increases proposed by Secretary Zinke will price out many visitors and deny American families the opportunity to visit and experience some of our nation’s most popular and iconic national parks. 

In 2016, 331 million national park visitors contributed an estimated $18.4 billion to local economies across the country. These expenditures supported a total of 318.1 thousand jobs, $12 billion in labor income, $19.9 billion in value added, and $34.9 billion in economic output nationally.

In 2016, over 47 million park visitors generated an estimated $6.5 million in economic output in the local economies that would be affected by the fee increase.

The letter was also signed by Senators Hirono (D-HI), Wyden (D-OR), Udall (D-NM), Murray (D-WA), Sanders (I-VT), Heinrich (D-NM), Harris (D-CA), Feinstein (D-CA), and Van Hollen (D-MD)

The full letter can be found here