Sunday, November 05, 2017
National Park Service to increase fees
On October 24th 2017, the Department of the Interior announced plans to raise both private and commercial fees for 17 of our National Parks. Our full response, regarding this increase can be read here .
This increase was proposed as a solution to the mounting backlog of maintenance that plagues our National Park system, and grows by more each year. Presently, the National Park Service estimates tha the maintenance deficit stands at $11.3 Billion. It is the hope, under this proposal, that increasing fees will help to bring this number down. However, we feel that this increase will ultimately accomplish nothing but will instead, disenfranchise the visiting public: especially those with already limited or tight budgets and small businesses. The proposed peak season fees, will rise by 200% making a single vehicle pass to enter our Parks $70, $50 to ride your motorcycle in and $30 to walk in or ride your bike. Presently, in Joshua Tree National Park, the fees stand at $25, $12, and $12 repectively. The Department of the Interior postulates that the fee increases will bring in an additional $70 Million annually. But, when applied to the overall deficit, this amout will only represent .006% of the overall backlog. Couple that with a proposed funding cut to the National Park Service of $400 Million and you can begin to see that it still represents a net loss of $330 Million.
There is a second piece to this proposal which will impact Guides, Outfitters and Tour Companies that provide services in these National Parks. The increases to commercial operators will exceed 500% in many cases. Most of the Guides and Outfitters operating in these parks are small businesses. Increasing the fees paid by these organizations will likely cause many to go out of business as they will be unable to afford such a steep increase simply to conduct business in our National Parks. Based on prelimiary estimates, fees for guides and outfitters who only serve 1000 guests per year, will see rates rise from a present fee estimate of $13,000 to almost $40,000 annually. If you are a tour bus company, you are likely to see fees jump from $150 per bus to more than $1000 in most cases.
These increases are far and above what any individual or organization would consider reasonable. The net effect of this proposal, if enacted is likely to resut in decreased visitors to National Parks and ultimately put small businesses, out of business. Here at Joshua Tree Excursions, we understand the monumental challenges that face the National Park Service in its mission to preserve and protect our National Treasures. Especially under the current financial constraints with which they are faced. However, it is wholly unreasonable to expect the visiting public and small businesses to pay the price for budget decisions made by our lawmakers, when these parks, funded by taxpayer dollars and current fees, by law, belong to the American people. There are solutions to this problem like Senate Bill 751 ( National Parks Legacy Act ). A bipartisian bill that would fully address the backlog that these fee increases seek to address. There is also the "Guides and Outfitters Act" which seeks to address the differences between guides and outfitters and implement a fee structure that is commensurate with the organizations, their activities and impact on resources.
Don't let this proposal go forward. We encourage everyone to take a few minutes and let the National Park Service and the Department of Interior know that these fees are unreasonable, unnecessary and punitive to both the public and local businesses. The comment period ends on November 23rd. Please take a moment and visit the National Park website and make your voice heard. These fees, go into effect at Joshua Tree National Park on 1 January 2018.