BCM’s Response to The Proposed National Park Fee Hike

The Department of the Interior recently proposed an increase of 180% to entrance fees—from $25 to $70 per vehicle—in 17 National Parks during peak visitation months. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s justification for the fee increase is that it is a necessary means of providing funds for maintenance of aging infrastructure.

The current federal budget cuts the Department of the Interior’s overall budget by 12%, and these budget cuts are being passed onto users. The resulting fee increases will act as barriers for millions of working and low-income families who want to access their public lands. Our job—as land managers, outdoor educators, and advocates for public lands—is to minimize barriers and encourage access. We must come together to advocate for this.

Big City Mountaineers has seen the effects of recreating and learning in our public lands. Our students come back from Olympic and Yosemite National Parks full of new insights about themselves, their communities, and the world. They return to their communities with new skills and an appreciation of our public lands, and an understanding that the National Parks and our public lands are theirs to recreate on in whatever way is meaningful to them.

We know that spending time in natural areas increases mental and physical health and is a part of all our cultural experiences. Part of our job as educators is to give our students the skills to continue accessing those meaningful and healthful experiences. This fee increase will hinder our students’ ability to continue their learning in and enjoyment of our parks. Moreover, it will hinder our ability as an organization to use these places in the future as their relevance becomes increasingly diminished in our students’ lives.

Our students face many barriers to accessing our public lands: transportation, money, gear, feeling unwelcome. This fee increase not only makes it financially difficult for families to physically access public land, but it also makes it clear who the Department of the Interior envisions public lands as being for. The message is loud and clear: that national park access is a luxury for the wealthy. In this time, it is the opposite of the message we must be sending, which is that our parks are for everyone—and everyone is welcome.

Big City Mountaineers is proud to be a part of the Next 100 Coalition, a group of organizations committed to making sure everyone has access to our public lands. We are proud to stand alongside the Coalition and its members in saying that this fee increase is the wrong answer to a maintenance and funding issue. The Department of the Interior is remiss in its mission if it makes it more difficult for diverse communities to access our national parks.

Please join us in letting the National Park Service know that you do not support the fee increases and believe that NPS should be inviting diverse communities into National Parks by commenting on the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment.