Public protest: Interior Department backs off of massive park fee hikes

More than 100,000 Americans voiced opposition to Zinke's proposed fee hike.
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National park fee hikes

Zinke's proposed entrance fee hike would have a substantial impact on visitation numbers in national parks.

The people said “no” to higher park fees, and the Interior officials listened. They announced yesterday that they’re rethinking the national park fee hikes that they proposed last fall.

Back in October, the Department of the Interior announced its plans to jack up entrance fees at some of the country’s most popular national parks. The fee hike was meant to fund park infrastructure improvements and fund the $12 billion backlog of upgrades needed.

From the beginning, the announcement was met with resistance, even outrage in some courts. And yesterday the Interior office announced that it will back down from the dramatic fee hike proposal. Some of the most popular parks, including Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, were looking at more than double the entrance fees, from $25 to $70 per car.

The public was invited to comment on the proposed fee hikes during a two-month period from late October to late December 2017. The department received more than 100,000 comments regarding the fee hikes. The verdict was almost unanimous: Don’t do it.

In our own poll, 73 percent of our readers voted against the fee hikes.

In another poll commissioned by Outdoor Alliance for Kids, 64 percent of adults surveyed said they would likely not visit the parks with the higher fees.

Ryan Zinke

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke

Several weeks ago, Secretary Zinke asserted that too many people—including veterans, fourth graders, senior citizens, and disabled adults—were accessing our parks for free, and this loss of revenue was contributing to the infrastructure backlog.

Additionally, the park service “free days” were slashed in 2018. In 2017, the park service offered 10 free days. This year there are only four.

Although the Interior Department is not scrapping the idea of fee hikes altogether, they are looking to address the public outcry in some fashion. “We’re working to respond to those … thoughtful and well-put comments,” an Interior official said in a statement according the Washington Post. “Our ultimate goal when it comes to entrance fees is to make sure the parks get 80 percent of that revenue … but we also don’t want to put a burden on our visitors. We believe there is room to increase the fees and the annual passes.”