The National Parks Service is facing a $12 billion deficit in its maintenance budget and wants visitors to foot the bill. Earlier this week, the agency that oversees the country’s 417 National Park Sites (including 59 designated National Parks) proposed a steep entrance fee increase during peak season at the most popular spots it manages.
“Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a statement released by the NPS on Tuesday.
Those targeted fee increases will hit 17 of the most popular and iconic National Parks in America, including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Canyonlands. According to NPR, the proposed plan would hike car entrance fees to $70 per vehicle (most places currently charge $25 to $30) and per-person fees to $30 (from $10 to $15). The hikes would last for five months during the visiting peak.
These budget woes, and the proposed hike, come at a time when visitation to National Parks is at an all-time high. 2016 shattered records with 331 million people attending a National Park—a 7.7 percent increase from 2015 according to NPR.
The boom in visitors has caused many in the NPS to be concerned about a strain on the protected lands. Zion National Park is considering capping the number of visitors per day, while other parks are implementing new strategies to cope with the influx.
There is obvious controversy surrounding the massive raise in entrance fees. Sen. John Testor, a Democrat from Montana told NPR, “Americans already own these parks and they shouldn't have to empty their wallets to enjoy them.”
In the statement from the NPS, Zinke, a Trump appointee, argues that the fee increases are meant as an act of preservation. “The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” he wrote.
The NPS is opening up the proposal to public comment. You can submit your opinion on the fee increase until November 23, here.