The Trump Administration’s proposal to more than double entrance fees at Yosemite and 16 other national parks during peak season would do far more harm than good to visiting families and surrounding communities.
America’s national parks are national treasures, founded upon the principle that these lands are owned by all of us, for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Raising entrance fees to $70 during peak season could make parks like Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon unaffordable for countless families, undermining park access, and harming the tourism economies of local communities.
This is not to say the funds the administration seeks to obtain for the $11.3 billion national parks repair backlog are not sorely needed. Years of congressional inaction on park infrastructure has led to eroding trails, crumbling roads, and aging visitor centers.
In Yosemite alone, this backlog has ballooned to $560 million, delaying important projects such as repairs to the deteriorating Wawona and El Portal wastewater treatment plants. This is also not to say that moderate, well-planned fee increases cannot be part of the solution too.
But at best, this drastic increase is projected by the administration to raise only about $70 million annually. This amount would not be remotely enough to keep the backlog from growing, especially given that it was proposed by an administration that is simultaneously seeking to cut roughly $300 million from already depleted funds for park staffing and programs.
Thankfully, this proposal has received backlash at nearly every level, and generated well over 100,000 comments in response. This includes opposition from the congressmember representing Yosemite, Tom McClintock, who personally expressed disapproval of this plan to Interior Secretary Zinke, noting that it would impact both visitation to public lands and the commerce it brings to surrounding communities.
Though helpful, words of dissatisfaction from our elected officials are not enough.
Now is the time for Congress to step up and act to prevent these maintenance costs from being shouldered by visiting families. Instead of drastically increasing fees, the administration and Congress should support the National Park Service Legacy Act.
This bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced in Congress in early 2017 would shift existing, undedicated federal revenues to address the backlog, and could help support more than 110,000 jobs nationally.
The California State Legislature has already unanimously supported the Legacy Act by passing a Joint Resolution introduced by Assemblymember Frank Bigelow, calling upon California’s congressional delegation to support the Act. Numerous counties and cities throughout the Sierra have followed suit with similar resolutions or supporting letters, including Alpine, Mariposa, Mono, and Tuolumne Counties.
We thank representatives like Tom McClintock for coming out strongly against the proposed fee increases, but urge he and other area representatives in congress to act upon the requests from their constituents – including local elected officials, as well as destination marketing and economic development organizations – who have called on them to help pass the Legacy Act.
As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, McClintock is in a unique position to speak up and take action to address the backlog.
If he and other Central Valley and Sierra congressmembers like the Devin Nunes, Jeff Denham, Jerry McNerney, and Kevin McCarthy were to lend their influential voices as co-sponsors of this important bill, it could go a long way toward creating a permanent solution.
We ask them to work with other members of Congress and the administration to provide major investments through annual and dedicated funding to address the national park repair backlog.
A healthy local tourism economy requires that our national parks – including their roads, bridges, trails, and infrastructure – be safe and well‐maintained. It’s time to support the National Park Service Legacy Act so we can continue to welcome people into our national parks.