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Environment

National Park Service Awards Lifetime Pass to Veterans and Families

With the new Interagency Military Lifetime Pass, current and former service members, as well as their families, will be able to visit public lands for free

By Denali Sagner
Mount Oberlin as viewed from Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park on July 5, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The National Park Service on Nov. 11 unveiled a program that will provide veterans and their families with a lifetime free entrance pass to America’s national parks. The Interagency Military Lifetime Pass will waive entrance fees for National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands, as well as standard amenity recreation fees for Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sites for veterans, Gold Star Families, and current military service members and their dependents. The pass is an expansion of the current annual pass available to active military service members and their families.

“We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans. This new lifetime pass is a small demonstration of our nation’s gratitude and support for those who have selflessly served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a press release on Nov. 8. “I’m proud the Department of the Interior can provide veterans and Gold Star Families opportunities for recreation, education and enjoyment from our country’s treasured lands.”

Gold Star Families are defined as the immediate family members of those service members who died in the line of duty.

The Interagency Military Lifetime Pass is poised to expand recreation opportunities for military veterans and their families in Montana, which is home to a large veteran population, as well as a wide array of public lands.

According to the 2020 Census, the state of Montana had one of the highest percentages of military veterans per-capita in the U.S., with over 89,000 former service members living in the state. Flathead County in 2020 reported 8,759 veterans as residents, amounting to around 8% of the county’s population.

In addition to a large veteran population, nearly one-third of Montana’s landmass consists of public lands managed by the federal government under the National Parks Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies. Interagency Military Lifetime Pass holders will be able to avoid fees at Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and other public lands that charge entrance and other recreation fees.

Per-vehicle entrance fees will be waived for pass holders at Glacier National Park when the park reopens this spring, however all individuals and families will still be required to obtain vehicle reservations for the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

“This pass conveys our immense gratitude and respect for those who have given so much,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams stated in the Nov. 8 press release. “As a veteran, I know firsthand the many sacrifices that members of the Armed Forces and their families have made in service to our country, and I am thrilled that Gold Star Families and military veterans can now enjoy lifetime access to national parks and other public lands.”

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