U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is criticizing a plan by the National Park Service to significantly increase entrance fees at 17 popular parks, including Glacier and Yellowstone, during the busiest times of the year.
Agency officials estimate the increase will generate an additional $70 million annually to address deferred maintenance. But the Democratic lawmaker says it is Congress’ duty to maintain the parks without imposing “drastic” fee increases on visitors.
“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.”
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 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.
The cost of the annual “America the Beautiful” pass, which provides entrance to all federal lands, including parks, for a one-year period, would remain $80. Entrance fees would still not be charged to visitors under 16 years of age or holders of Senior, Military, Access, Volunteer, or Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) passes.
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.
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.
A public comment period on the peak-season entrance fee proposal will be open from Oct. 24 to Nov. 23, on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website https://parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates. Written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.