Stop Fretting Over Raised Prices and Start Raising Hell

The decisions of the U.S. Department of the Interior and its secretary, Ryan Zinke, regarding our public lands has been looming over outdoor enthusiasts since he took office. One of the department’s many proposals is to increase entrance fees to the country’s most visited parks during its peak seasons.

The price hike would affect: Acadia, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion, during summer months and as soon as the 2018 season.

Many of these parks would see a car entrance fee nearly triple to a whopping $70. This in turn would generate an estimated $70 million per year for the National Park Service (NPS).

Undoubtedly, the surge will positively impact the parks – which are constantly underfunded and in need of some capital to chip away at the $11.3 billion maintenance backlog, as well as other general maintenance and improvements to keep the parks up ‘n’ running for the 330 million people who visit annually.

Inherently, people are upset with the prospect of shelling out the big bucks to enjoy the outdoors and our national natural treasures.

It’s time we put the filtered Instagram posts aside and face the music…

Many of our parks simply aren’t the same places they were, even a decade ago.

Our most well-known parks, like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, have evolved into Mother Nature’s versions of Disneyland. That’s not to say they are any less dignified or remarkable or beautiful, but that picturesque view of Half Dome from the valley may be cluttered by towering tour buses, oblivious families ogling dangerously close to a black bear cub, candy wrappers entangled in a gust of wind, and selfie sticks pointing every which way.

This is actually a relatively slow day in Zion’s famed Narrows. Image via The Denver Post.

A visit to a popular National Park any time between June and August is an anxiety-inducing combination of traffic comparable to Los Angeles rush hour, lines longer than those at the Apple Store during a new iPhone launch, and a Walmart on Black Friday-level of chaos… A medley that many of these people are, ironically, trying to escape.

Arguing against the fee increases is blatantly ignoring change. You might as well pull your pants up to your nipples and hang out in your yard, shaking your fist at the kids riding their bikes down your street. It’s silly for us to expect anything to stay the same forever, as much as we want it to. Our parks have to adapt to this influx of visitors, which is only growing at an exponential rate. It’s basic math – more people equals more wear equals more repairs equals more money.

Additionally, arguing against the fee increases behind the reason that it diminishes accessibility to our parks is a waste of energy… Because at the end of the day, the issue isn’t a price hike for 17 of our 417 National Parks.

The real problem with this proposal is the blatant hypocrisy emanating from the Department of the Interior, as well as our President and his cronies.

That’s who we should be fighting, and not about your costly entry into a park… If you do your research, you’ll find much more important things worthy of your fury.

In the announcement regarding the increased admission amount, Secretary Zinke explains, “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting. We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today.”

Yes, this Zinke who champions “protection” and “preservation” of our National Parks is the very same Zinke who has been advocating the downsizing of our public lands.

The same Zinke who suggested privatizing National Park campgrounds because he’s too lazy to deal with them. The same Zinke who is leasing our public lands to oil and gas companies. The same Zinke who proposed we shrink Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, among others, to make room for more drilling and mining. The latter was recently approved by President Trump despite the pleas of 90.9% of Utahns who submitted comments to the Department of the Interior’s public forum.

It’s not just Zinke; the entire Trump Administration shares his views and values. Tragically, the biggest threat to our public lands today is our very own President. Trump’s FY2018 budget features severe cuts to funding the Department of the Interior, and consequentially, our National Parks. The budget contains a 12% slash to the Interior, eliminates over 1,000 positions, and cuts $132 million from base operating funding affecting 90% of our parks. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The revenue resulting from the increased entrance fees of less than twenty National Parks’ is not going to balance out these losses and it is completely counterproductive to raise prices of the parks while simultaneously cutting their much-needed government funding; both financial sources, working in conjunction with one another, are essential to the survival of our parks. The price surge has a wealth of benefits, but the proposal feels like the government’s indolent solution to the NPS’ need for funding, as well as a way to help take attention from the countless injustices occurring against our public lands.

The supplemental revenue acquired from the raised prices should act as extra financial help for the parks, it should not be, and it is not a substitute for government funding.

And don’t even get me started on the recently leaked documents detailing the Department of the Interior’s plans, which clearly prioritizes the extraction of fossil fuels – particularly coal and oil – over our public lands, and our environment as a whole. Get the full scoop over at Adventure Journal.

So in summer 2018, when you pull up to the entrance of Zion National Park and the smiling ranger says, “$70 please,” don’t give him or her attitude, roll your eyes, angrily mumble this is ridiculous under your breath, or mutter some other smartass remark. Pay the $70, take the map, and relish in the unrivaled enchantment and wonderment of America’s public lands.

… Because we shouldn’t be mad at our National Parks, we should be mad at our government for failing them.

 

Don’t just get mad, get even; I highly recommend following public lands advocate, Katie Boué on your preferred social media networks and check out her concise Outdoor Advocacy Toolkit to get started on protecting our parks (and more).

P.S. The NPS has just opened a public comment period. I don’t even care if you disagree with me, your voice deserves to be heard because these are YOUR lands. Leave your comment regarding the proposal here!

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