In a letter sent this morning, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz objected to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s proposal to drastically increase entrance fees at national parks, including Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks, which draw more than 5 million visitors annually.
Commissioner Franz noted that higher entrance fees will limit the public’s ability to visit national parks and harm rural economies.
“One of the core reasons we have public lands is to make them accessible to the public. The exorbitant entrance fees outlined in this proposal will do the opposite of that, depriving millions of Americans of the chance to experience these national wonders,” Commissioner Franz said
Citing a maintenance backlog, Secretary Zinke in October unveiled a plan to increase access fees from $25 or $30 per vehicle to $70.
In addition to reducing the accessibility of national parks, Commissioner Franz noted that a decrease in visitors will hurt small businesses surrounding the parks. Washington’s National Parks inject $400 million into Washington’s economy every year.
“We’ve seen in the past that even modest increases to national park fees have led directly to decreased visitations,” Commissioner Franz said. “That hurts the surf shop owner in Port Angeles, the gas station owner in Ashford, the hotelier in Aberdeen, the outfitter in Brinnon, and the teenagers who yearn for opportunities to earn a decent wage in their home towns.”
Instead, Commissioner Franz urged support for the National Park Service Legacy Act of 2017, a bill sponsored by 12 senators and 54 representatives, including Washington Senator Patty Murray and Representatives Derek Kilmer, David Reichert, Dan Newhouse, Pramila Jayapal, and Suzan DelBene. The bill dedicates funding from mineral leases on federal land to maintain national parks.
As Commissioner of Public Lands, Franz oversees the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and natural resource management on 5.6 million acres of land, including 160,000 acres of recreation lands, 1,100 miles of trails and 160-plus recreation sites on a wide variety of landscapes throughout Washington state.