Senate Committee Taking Testimony Thursday On Funding The National Park Service

A hearing Thursday before the full Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will delve into the fiscal needs of the National Park Service for the next fiscal year. Specifically, the senators want to hear about "supplemental" funding mechanisms that could help the Park Service afford the National Park System.

A range of supplemental funding sources was identified earlier this year by the National Parks Hospitality Association and the National Parks Conservation Association. Some of those proposals, if enacted, would mean higher fees to visit and enjoy the parks.

As Traveler reported back in March, some of the ideas propose tapping existing federal revenue streams, while others would have park visitors pay more for a variety of park experiences. Others call for creating a $1 billion endowment for the Park Service, going after a portion of the state sales taxes collected on visitor purchases, and asking gateway communities to boost their sales tax rates a bit to generate revenue for their parks.

There also could be some suggestions that the Park Service upgrade some of its services, particularly in the realm of recreational vehicle visitors. According to a story in Woodall's Campground Management, there's a concern that a lack of RV amenities in national park campgrounds is hurting park attendance. According to the story, RV stays in the parks have dropped from more than 4 million user-nights per year in the 1980s to about half that currently.

Derrick Crandall of the National Parks Hospitality Association told the publication that "(P)rivate campgrounds have adapted to today’s campers. There is strong evidence that NPS sites designed for tent campers, with no utility hook-ups, no Wi-Fi or dumpstations and other factors have contributed to the decline in RV stays."

Witnesses scheduled to testify at Thursday morning's hearing include Park Service Director Jon Jarvis; Craig Obey, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association; David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia; Gerard Gabrys, president and CEO of Guest Services Inc., a major park concessionaire, and; Dan Puskar, executive director of the Association of Partners for Public Lands.

You can offer your thoughts to the committee, but have to act quickly as written comments are being accepted only through 5 p.m. EDT on Friday. Your statement should be submitted, preferably in Word format, as an email attachment to the committee's staff assistant, John Assini, at

You should state in your cover email that you want your attached statement included in the record of the July 25 parks funding bill hearing. Include your full name and address in your statement.

Comments

I have sent my comments outlining the abuses of the NPS with their fee authority and characterized them as "teenagers who need to have the car keys taken away."

Because that is the truth. If the NPS great idea is to have concessionaires (private, corporate investment) have more sway with the agency (insert new DOI secretary, Sally Jewell, former REI head and concessionaire in the Smokies) then they are doomed.

The fact is that visitation in the parks is down since their great fee ideas have been implemented and it appears as if the elected officials are starting to take notice. I look forward to seeing the NPS moustache club get some wax by reducing their ability to arbitrarily tax.

I disagree. The parks are a bargain and have been repeatedly hit by budget cuts and the sequester in recent years. If charging modest fees to users will help offset these cuts, I'm all for it. If you don't like the fees, then what's your funding alternative?

And while I'm not opposed to having limited wi fi available in campgrounds or visitor centers to check email, send a photo, etc., that's going down a path that I think is exactly what we don't want in parks. The parks and park campgrounds should cater to people there to enjoy the parks, and having wi fi available is only going to encourage people to be sitting in the parks watching movies, etc. Let them do that at the private campgrounds if that's what they want.

In my younger years I always camped in np campgounds. I now travel in a small 13 foot trailer that still would work at many NPS sites, however I have a medical device that needs to be used daily and with very few park campsites having electric service I find I must use commercial operations at greater expense and certaily less estectic settings. If just electric service were available I belive many would use the campgronds even foregoing wi fi and sewer/water hook ups. Most of the bigger rigs have enough capacity for 5-7 days of water and holding reserves.

Fee abuses by the DOI are nationwide, I suggest you watch the testimony by Kitty Benzar to the house committee. Wifi in a campground? You've got to be kiddig me. How about charging to park at a trailhead to hike on BLM or FS land? How about creating an amenity so you can justify a fee? These are real issues for which the DOI must be called to task. Unfortunately, with the likes of Salley Jewell and Jarvis at the helm, I see nothing that will be done unless the elected officials smack these bureaucrats down. And its looking like they may finally get their due.

Moustache waxing for the NPS is coming.

The Forest Service isn't in the D.O.I. And REI is not a concessioner in the GRSM NP or anywhere else in the NPS. Are your opinions as invalid as your facts?

Hey flyer, get your head out of the clouds,

the US forest service receives its budget through the dept of interior although they are technically under the dept of agriculture. Their ability to charge fees is through FLREA admin by the doi. I would say that whoever holds your purse strings is your boss and this is clearly outlined in refutation of your second statement below.

Regarding REI they subcontract with local guide services to provide backpacking trips and here is the link. http://www.rei.com/adventures/activity/backpacking.html#tennessee

It means they provide backpacking trips on public lands and do so through a local guide service that is a concessionaire, therefore, they, REI, have an economic interest in the Smokies and have a part in fees there. The fees in the smokies are a result of that particular guide service spitting out lies as truth about the backcountry so they can have shelters to themselves and the guide and REI can profit when regular, non guided folks, are cleared from their shelters, aka profit zones.

REI former president is now secy of interior and the cozy, corporate agendas pass their lies as truth and uninformed, pie in the sky folks like yourself believe it. That is why you hear this stuff about privatizing public lands. Be afraid, corporations have never had the best interest of public lands. That is why the NPS was created in the first place.

Oh, for pete's sake, Mr. Partisan.

The USFS is not "technically" in the USDA. They ARE in the USDA. Stop conflating all your demons.

You will no doubt remember, backpacker, that I believe President Carter tried to move the USFS to the Department of the Interior based on the theory that all conservation agencies should operate under the same umbrella. The members of the agriculture committees in both the Senate and House objected to any erosion of their jurisdiction. Thus, the USFS remains in the Department of Agriculture.

Rick

If it takes Wifi in the parks to get people to come over, why fight it? The ultimate goal is to get more people to come enjoy the parks. This might not be everyone's preferred way of enjoying the parks, but as long as it doesn't impact others enjoyment of the parks, who cares?