People spoke up, and Zinke backed down on park entrance fees

Friday , April 06, 2018 - 4:30 AM

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

If you think your voice doesn’t matter, you’re wrong.

Because the voices of more than 100,000 Americans just forced Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to back down on national park entrance fees.

In October, Zinke proposed a plan to nearly triple the cost of visiting America’s most popular national parks, taking peak-season entrance fees at the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Joshua Tree and about a dozen other parks from $25 to $70.

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Zinke said he needed the biggest fee increase since World War II in order to raise $70 million a year for infrastructure improvements.

A lot of Americans disagreed. About 109,000 shared their comments with the National Park Service.

“So the NPS would more than double the current entry fee for peak season,” one commenter said. “I know if I were considering a trip to one of these parks and suddenly found that the trip would incur an exorbitant entrance fee, I would not … repeat not take my family on this trip.”

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“$70 is insane!” another person commented. “What the hell? You need to go to Congress, get them to fund NPS, and then get our president to actually sign it.”

Governors and lawmakers from both parties also hated the plan, which would’ve raised entrance fees at four Utah national parks — Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands, along with Zion.

By March, Zinke had started backpedaling, The Washington Post reported. He was no longer committed to the rates he’d proposed in October, he testified at a Senate hearing, and had started considering alternatives.

A spokeswoman for Zinke said the Interior Department took the public’s comments “seriously” and adjusted the rate structure accordingly.

We’ll see. Peak visitation arrives in May and June at many national parks, so Zinke needs to announce the new fees quickly.

When he does, it won’t be what he originally proposed.

And it’s because your voice made a difference.

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