The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy opposes the Department of Interior's plans to raise entrance fees at 17 national parks to as much as $70 per vehicle. Interior proposed the fee increase as a means to address a nearly $11.3 billion maintenance backlog across 417 historic and natural properties managed by the National Park Service. However, the fee increase would pose an unfair burden on many Americans, only offset a fraction of the maintenance backlog, and ignore more responsible and sustainable solutions.
National parks targeted for the fee increase - like Joshua Tree or Shenandoah - offer opportunities for nearby urban and rural populations to learn about our history and natural heritage. But a $70 entrance fee at these sites could make such a visit cost prohibitive to lower-income families. Americans that desire to visit one of these 17 national parks would have to shoulder the burden of a maintenance backlog that spans over 400 park sites.
As the Conservancy pointed out in our letter to the Secretary of Interior, "national parks protect natural and historical treasures to be maintained for the benefit of all Americans; they should not be treated like amusement parks where the cost of admission rises or falls on a supply and demand curve. We cannot afford to neglect our national parks, and their future should not be determined by an approach that chases the highest bidder."
The maintenance backlog is the result of years of neglect by Congress to adequately fund the National Park Service, even though national park funding only accounts for a fraction of one percent of our total national budget. Congress should cherish our national parks the way most Americans do, and appropriate the funds needed to maintain these natural and historic wonders. The Department of Interior should abandon its proposed fee increase and the administration should support the bipartisan National Park Service Legacy Act introduced in Congress earlier this year. The bill, if passed and signed by the President, would erase the maintenance backlog through a responsible budget.
The public can submit comments on the fee increase until December 22, 2017. Follow this link to the NPS website and let them know that our parks deserve adequate funding from Congress and should remain accessible to all Americans.