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Arthur Frommer: Devotees of the U.S. National Parks Can Utter a (Brief) Sigh of Relief  | Frommer's Josh Biggs

Arthur Frommer: National Parks Devotees Can Utter a (Brief) Sigh of Relief

In the early months of the Trump administration, it was widely rumored that the new head of the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, would propose a doubling of the entrance fees to some 100 national parks that charge admission.  

The reaction to that drastic proposal was so negative, and from both sides of the aisle in Congress, that it was since assumed that a far milder increase would be enacted.

Happily, that is exactly what has happened. 

Public reaction to the proposed fee hike was so severe, so strong, that Zinke beat a hasty retreat. This month, it has been announced that the Department of the Interior will enact only a $5 increase in the charge for entering a popular U.S. national park (like the Grand Canyon, pictured) where entrance fees are charged.

But it’s important that the public keep a close watch on Zinke, whose private opinion is clearly in favor of a greater increase in entrance fees.  

Since Zinke cannot propose a hike in federal taxes to cover the needed improvements in park infrastructure (heaven forbid!), it is probable that someday soon he may be back with a proposal for higher fees. Already, Zinke is promoting a proposal to tax the earnings from the mining and oil drilling that he would permit in the parks—and those would be used for park improvement.

Either way, the public loses.

A general hike in federal taxes to cover needs of the parks is urgently needed. The backlog in required maintenance and improvement is measured in billions of dollars. Taxes levied on people who are able to pay them, and not upon low-income citizens for whom the parks are the only locales for low-income vacations, are the only honorable means of protecting and preserving the parks.

Organizations all over America are active in preserving the parks. If one such group is located nearby, it behooves you to join it, and thus assist the fight against further increases in fees for enjoying our cherished U.S. national parks.