Is Trump’s New National Park Fee Increase Really Outrageous?

Jesse Lee is unhappy:

Naturally, I got curious. Is this truly outrageous? I wanted to find out, but it turns out that the history of automobile fees at national parks is surprisingly hard to get a handle on. Every park is different and there are lots of different kinds of fees (single visit, annual, all-park passport, etc.). Eventually I gave up and limited my scope to Yosemite, which acts as sort of a bellwether for park fees (Yosemite and Yellowstone have always had the highest vehicle fees in the national park system). I can’t guarantee that this chart is completely accurate, but I think it’s pretty close:

Long story short, yes, it’s outrageous. The orginal $5 fee (about $115 adjusted for inflation) was set sort of haphazardly back when cars were a rich man’s toy, but for the past century the vehicle fee at Yosemite has hovered around $30 or so in current dollars. The most recent increase, in 2015, kept vehicle fees right in line with inflation, but the Trump administration’s proposal would more than double that to $70 during peak seasons. About a dozen other parks are also affected, and presumably this would represent an even bigger increase since most of them have historically had lower vehicle fees than Yosemite.

As I was checking up on this, I skimmed through a monograph on the history of park fees and read several newspaper articles about past fee increases. They are all identical. On one side are folks who want the Park Service to generate more revenue to cover its costs, and on the other side are folks who think that fee increases will put national parks out of reach for anyone who’s not rich. The current debate is precisely the same. The only difference is that this time the proposed increase really would set park fees far higher than they’ve been for nearly a century.

POSTSCRIPT: The answer to the headline of this post is “Yes.” I did that just to prove that Betteridge’s law of headlines is more like a guideline than an actual law.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate