The Department of the Interior is scrapping a plan to roughly double fees at some national parks in favor of a new plan that modestly raises fees at all parks that currently charge to access, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the new plan Thursday after Americans “made their voices heard” in opposition to the original plan that would have resulted in fees as high as $70 for a one-day-pass per vehicle in the country’s most popular national parks.
“An investment in our parks is an investment in America,” Zinke said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality.”
At parks that currently require fees, those fees will increase by roughly $5. Parks currently free to enter will remain as such.
The fee hikes will help the National Forest Service pay down an $11.6 billion backlog on deferred maintenance. The extra money from higher fees will stay in the National Park Service, and at least 80 percent of the money will stay in the park it’s collected at, NPR reported.
One-hundred-ten-thousand people submitted comments against the proposal after Interior officials announced the original plan in October, according to an analysis from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
“Fees do have a role to play in our parks, and the administration’s move to abandon its original proposal in favor of more measured fee increases will put additional funds into enhancing park experiences without threatening visitation or local economies,” NPCA President and CEO Theresa Pierno said in a statement. “Despite this welcomed move, fees alone will not solve parks’ repair challenges.”
Zinke is also pushing a proposal to use royalties from energy development on federal lands and waters to fund park infrastructure maintenance and repair. The plan would raise $18 billion toward national parks over a decade, according to Zinke.