National Park Service Extends Comment Period for Fee Increase Proposal

by Flathead Beacon

The National Park Service has extended the time the public can comment on proposed peak-season entrance fee increases at 17 popular national parks, including Glacier and Yellowstone.

The deadline, originally scheduled for Nov. 23, has been extended to Dec. 22. More than 65,000 comments have already been received on the proposal, the agency said.

If the new rates were enacted, a seven-day pass for a single motor vehicle in Glacier Park would increase from $30 to $70. For a motorcycle, the fee would go from $25 to $50. For someone on a bicycle or on foot, the entrance fee would increase from $15 to $30. The increased fees would be in effect in Glacier Park from May through September.

Earlier this year, the NPS proposed increasing the annual pass from $50 to $60. Under the latest proposal, a park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.

NPS officials said the new price structure would support improvements for aging infrastructure within the parks and generate an additional $70 million annually.

“It is critical that Montanans and Americans can afford to enjoy Montana’s national treasures,” U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said in a statement. “A fee increase of this magnitude needs enough time for Montanans and our visitors to have their voices heard.”

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., blasted the proposed fee increases when they were first proposed.

“Americans already own these parks and they shouldn’t have to empty their wallets to enjoy them,” Tester said. “Glacier and Yellowstone should be accessible to all of us. This decision will price Montana families out of our public lands, and hurt local economies, which thrive thanks to our National Parks. I encourage all Montanans to weigh in and make their voices heard.”

The fee increases proposals come as the NPS faces proposed budget cuts. The Trump administration is proposing to slash nearly $380 million from the NPS budget, including $956,000 from Glacier specifically.

Glacier Park had its busiest summer on record in 2017 and will shatter its annual record for the fourth consecutive year. The park has already surpassed 3 million visitors.

The National Park System’s maintenance backlog was estimated at $11.3 billion in 2016, according to the agency. Glacier Park’s deferred maintenance backlog was $148.2 million.

Fee increases are also being considered at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah and Joshua Tree national parks.

“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said when first proposing the fee increases. “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will 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.”

Written comments can be sent to National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

National Park Service Extends Comment Period for Fee Increase Proposal