According to a report from KQED, Ryan Zinke is proposing that entry fees to the more prominent national parks - e.g., Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, and more - be bumped up to $70 per vehicle during peak seasons.
NPS has opened a public comment period to gather feedback on its proposal, which would affect Acadia, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion national parks.
And annual $80 passes for federal lands would not change, though fees would go up for pedestrians and motorcyclists.
Revenue would be used to restore and improve facilities, infrastructure and visitor services, with an emphasis on deferred maintenance projects. A 30-day public comment period will run from October 24 to November 23 on a park service website.
However, fee increases that were put in place at some parks in 2015 do not seem to have had a negative impact on the number of visitors.
Over the years, the park service has implemented several initiatives to offer easier access to national parks, including the Every Kid in a Park program which offers free access passes to fourth graders, and the America the handsome pass for seniors - which increased by $10 over the summer.
I found the news of proposed large entrance fee increases at some of the nation's busiest national parks very disturbing.
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"National parks are meant to be affordable so middle-class families can enjoy America's most spectacular natural beauty", said Sen.
"It's way out of line, it's a huge increase, very sudden, with no chance to really comment on it", Smith said.
Peter Pereira of Centennial took this photo on September 17, 2012, of a "Bull Elk bugling at Rocky Mountain National Park".
Ultimately, whether or not entry fees are raised at the 17 parks, the NPS is celebrating something of a tourism boom. "Shoring up our parks' aging infrastructure will do that". But the Trump administration proposed cutting the fiscal year 2018 budget at the Department of the Interior, which includes the park service, by roughly 12 percent.
In fact, in 2016 NPS had a record-breaking 331 million visits, almost eight per cent more than the year before. "The national parks offer SO MUCH MORE".
The National Parks Conservation Association, a nonprofit that advocates for the park system, said Wednesday that entrance fees, if done appropriately, could help to address the massive maintenance backlog.
However, many Montanans are angry about the increase saying it will make the parks less accessible for locals and the funding to fix parks should come from Congress.