Entrance Fee Repeal Legislation Would Have Little Impact on National Parks

Legislation introduced to Congress this week by senators from Montana and Idaho would limit the fees land managers could charge for recreation on public lands. However, the measure would have little impact on units of the national park system.

The bill, introduced Monday by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, would block the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management from charging "higher" fees for recreation on their lands.

"Americans already pay to use their public lands on April 15,” Senator Baucus said in announcing the Fee Repeal and Expanded Access Act of 2007. “We shouldn’t be taxed twice to go fishing, hiking, or camping on OUR public lands. It just doesn’t make any sense. That’s why Mike and I are going to fight like the dickens to get this bill passed."

Here's what Senator Crapo had to say:

“As an outdoorsman and legislator, I have always supported fair and reasonable access to our nation’s public lands. Mandatory user fees for access to many of those lands limits accessibility to those who can afford the cost and results in a “pay-to-play” system that is unacceptable. I also fully recognize that we need to adequately fund recreation activities on federal lands and will continue to fight in Congress to make sure the funding needs of our public lands management agencies are met.”

However, the senators' rhetoric is left at the door of the national park system. As I understand it, the measure would simply cap park entrance fees at $25.

The bill does, though, call for the return of the $50 National Parks Pass, which died an ignoble death on December 31, 2006, when it was replaced by the $80 America the Beautiful Pass. And the Golden Eagle Pass would return for $65.

"Much as I might have personally liked to see park entrance fees repealed as well, there is simply no political support for that," one person close to the matter told me when I asked why the parks were left out of the proposal's most significant aspects. "They bring in too much money."

It's so late in the year that this bill might not move at all in the immediate future. But when it does gain traction, it will be interesting to watch its evolution.

Since the measure caps park entrance fees at $25 per car, if the measure passes and is signed into law will we see the Park Service rush to raise all of its entrance fees to $25, a level only a handful, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, currently charge?

Will there be more "amenity" fees in the national parks?

In effect, will the park system be turned into a cash cow to pay for the costs of recreation on other public lands?

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Fee Repeal Act.pdf40.06 KB

Comments

Totally agree with the bill. I'm don't think Americans should be taxed twice for enjoying the great outdoors. Some of the heavily visited parks ... yes. Yosemite has to have it's own jail because the traffic is so heavy!

BLM land in San Benito County, California which is administered as if everyone is trespassing and by installing fees, I suppose they hope to discourage visitors. It's public land and fencing most of it off limits the public. Just doesn't make sense unless you want to cut down on personell work load. I know there are some very sensitive issues involving flora & fauna, but these were covered many years ago. They're down to just closing the area altogether now. Too bad because it's a geological gold mine.

I just turned 62 and noticed that I should be able to sign up for a lifetime pass. We'll see how that goes. Got that off the Nat'l Park Service web site. Try to visit Big Bend Nat'l Park every chance my wife and I get. One of the gems in the park chain that few know about. Been there more than Yosemite, but we are 4X4 campers.

Sounds like the Park Service got another sweet deal on the back of our national forests.

According to S-2438, National Parks can charge and everyone else can not.

Trust me, entrance fees collected at the National Parks will never help cover any Forest Service or BLM expenses. Plus any money collected by Forest Service or BLM *must be* sent to the Treasury for the Congress to use as they so wish.

Sens. Baucus and Crapo miss the point - Americans do not already pay to use their public lands through their taxes. While taxes do pay for the protection of public lands, these taxes do not cover usage. A person visiting public lands imposes additional costs on the land, such as wear and tear on the facilities, and the time of Rangers, etc. It is only right that someone who visits public lands 10 times in a year should pay a little more to cover these costs than someone who only visits once.

Sabattis