Environmental justice among reasons fee increases should be scrapped, says bipartisan coalition of 11 attorneys general
November 22, 2017
Washington, DC — David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law and former Interior deputy secretary in the Obama and Clinton Administrations, released the following statement after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general in filing comments today with National Park Service opposing steep fees hikes at 17 National Parks:
“For the past 100 years, our leaders have insisted that all Americans have affordable access to our extraordinary National Parks. Secretary Zinke has presented a Thanksgiving spoiler by proposing to spike entrance fees at our most popular National Parks.
"State attorneys general are once again defending the people of their states against a reckless and misguided Trump Administration proposal. As they lay out in comments filed today, Secretary Zinke's proposal does not follow the letter, or the spirit, of our National Parks laws. The proposal looks like it was written up on a napkin. Most importantly, it fails to evaluate the legal criteria applicable for rate hikes, including the negative impacts on American families' ability to visit the National Parks, and on the resulting the economic harm to gateway communities.
"I applaud Attorney General Becerra and his fellow attorneys general for defending access to our awe-inspiring National Parks."
Last month, Interior Secretary Zinke announced a proposal to double or triple entrance fees at 17 of the most popular National Parks, including: Acadia; Arches; Bryce Canyon; Canyonlands; Denali; Glacier; Grand Canyon; Grand Teton; Joshua Tree; Mount Rainier; Olympic; Sequoia & Kings Canyon; Rocky Mountain; Shenandoah; Yellowstone; Yosemite; and Zion. The comment period closes on December 22.
In their comments filed today, the attorneys general noted that the Administration failed to:
- Comply with the criteria Congress requires the Administration to apply and analyze when evaluating proposed fee increases for the National Parks;
- Provide Park-by-Park public outreach and opportunities for input regarding potential negative impacts of fee increases;
- Explain how the fee increases will address systemic maintenance backlog needs at virtually every National Park, given legal constraints on sharing fee increaseswith in-need Parks.
"As John Muir once put it in The Yosemite, 'everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.' The Service’s proposed fee increases, which double or even triple existing entrance fees, threaten to put many Americans to the choice of beauty or bread and to distance them from the places in which so many experience the natural wonder of our great and unique nation," write the attorneys general in their comments. "This is concerning as a matter of policy. We cannot let the most popular and awe-inspiring national parks become places only for the wealthy. As Americans, we are all public landowners. All Americans should have access to these lands, especially communities that the Service’s surveys show have often been underrepresented, including inner city children and Hispanic-American and African- American populations."
ABOUT THE STATE IMPACT CENTER: The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visithttp://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact.