• 59°

Keep national parks affordable

By Susan and Biff Andrews

We attempt here to eschew politics and focus instead on wildlife, the environment and the love of the outdoor lifestyle. Occasionally, however, something so egregious occurs that people must be alerted.

In today’s case, time is of the essence.

Last week, President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke — he of the Puerto Rico electrical bid fame — proposed nearly tripling the cost to visit the most popular national parks — 17 of them. Our own Shenandoah (with 1.5 million visitors per year) is among them.

The price for a vehicle entry would rise from $25 (plus $10 per occupant) to $70 plus the occupants.

Other well-known parks affected include Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Acadia, Denali, Glacier and others. I have visited 13 of the 17, and they are worth visiting at any cost, but they should be free. Price-gouge the illegal immigrants or foreign tourists.

The infrastructure of the parks has been backlogged to the tune of $11 billion. There is in Congress a National Park Service Legacy Act that would provide $12 billion for the needed work from oil and gas royalties. Still, Mr. Trump would slash the NPS budget by $400 million a year.

Only 30 days have been allowed for public comment on this proposal, so if you want a family visit to Skyline Drive in autumn for less than $100, write to 1849 C St., NW Mail Stop 2346, Washington, D.C. 20240 or visit parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedparkseasonfeerates.

No comments will be considered after Thanksgiving.

Another parks matter under consideration is Bear’s Ears National Monument (created by President Obama). Bear’s Ears and 26 other monuments may be reduced in size, dissolved altogether, or permit mining, logging, drilling, fracking and the like.

It is significant that Bear’s Ears is the only national land ever requested by Native Americans, as the land (in Utah) is sacred to the Hopi, Ute, Navajo and Zuni.

When Mr. Zinke performed his helicopter flyover of these lands, no Native Americans were invited, only Utah and federal officials. Oddly enough, these lands are mineral rich and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The National Park Service was created about a century ago to conserve and preserve natural wonders for future generations of Americans to enjoy.

They should be free. They are paid for by the taxes of Americans (except, perhaps, for Mr. Trump — how would we know?)

Foreigners and illegal immigrants should pay dearly to visit them. The national parks and monuments should (unlike the national forests) ban all drilling, fracking, logging and mining.

Perhaps there should be a box on the tax form to give to the parks, instead of politicians.

Please — time is crucial. Please send your comments to the above address or website to protest this price increase. Keep the National Parks affordable for all Americans, not just the wealthy.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.