Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke opposing the proposed National Park Service (NPS) fee increase over concerns that it will stifle local economies, create barriers to access, and further marginalize communities that already face challenges engaging in the outdoors.
"Access to public lands drives Colorado's outdoor economy," Bennet wrote. "In 2016, more than 4.5 million visitors to [Rocky Mountain National Park] spent an estimated $298.7 million and supported over 4,000 local jobs. The proposed fee increase, however, would limit the ability of some families to make the trip to RMNP, harming small businesses and local economies."
Bennet acknowledged the $227 million maintenance backlog at National Parks in Colorado and outlined alternative proposals to address it, including the bipartisan 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act.
"This growing backlog in maintenance is due, in part, to the chronic underfunding of our land management agencies," Bennet wrote. "Despite this underfunding, every $1 invested in the National Park Service still returns $10 in economic benefit. That is why I will continue to advocate for robust funding for federal land management agencies into the future."
Bennet requested that Zinke respond to questions about what data or models the Department of the Interior used when establishing the proposed fee increase. He also asked how the fee increase would affect existing programs to make public lands more inclusive, such as the Presidential Memorandum Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in our National Parks, National Forests, and Other Public Lands and Waters.
"I will continue to work toward concrete solutions that engage underrepresented communities in the outdoors and reduce the NPS maintenance backlog to ensure our children and grandchildren have a conservation legacy of which they can be proud," Bennet concluded.
A copy of the letter is available HERE.