Access to public land is – or should be – a right, but two recent decisions made by the Trump administration threaten to make public land more inaccessible than ever.
The Trump administration’s budget plans to cut $296.6 million from the National Park Service in 2018, and the National Park Service will “more than double the peak season entrance fees” at 17 popular parks including Shenandoah and Yellowstone.
Entry to the parks whose rates will be affected is already pricey – $25 or $30 per vehicle and $10 or $15 per person, peak season or not. The rates under this new plan would be $70 and $30 respectively during peak season.
The fee increase is intended to combat an almost $12 billion maintenance backlog – but Trump plans to cut the NPS budget by nearly $300 million while the new fees are projected to make only $70 million.
331 million people visited national parks last year alone, but rising prices are likely to change that. Of those 331 million visitors, approximately 80 percent were white. The Washington Post warns that increasing fees will only make the parks whiter, “creating a new disincentive for groups that have stayed away from, or felt discouraged from, visiting national parks.”
We shouldn’t limit access to key natural and cultural sites. The National Gallery of Art, the U.S. Botanic Gardens, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and dozens of other sites are free to the public, and rightfully so.
Record-breaking numbers show that people care about public lands, and so should the government – but the planned budget does not reflect their importance.
The Trump administration’s disregard for the environment and cultural connections to land is easy to see. Besides cutting the NPS budget and proposing enormous fee increases, Trump is likely just weeks away from announcing he will shrink the size of two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
We have to work to make the parks more accessible, not less.
The period for public comment on the proposed changes ends on Nov. 23, and the public comment forum is accessible on the NPS website.