National Park Service Announces Park Entrance Fee Increases
By Sam Schipani
The National Park Service announced on Thursday new entrance-fee increases for national parks across the country. The entrance price for most fee-collecting national parks will increase by $5 per vehicle, with additional increases for park-specific annual passes and motorcycles varying across parks, depending on their "size and type." The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain unchanged at $80.
The Interior Department previously proposed nearly tripling vehicle entrance fees during peak season but backed away from the plan after a vast majority of the approximately 109,000 comments the Interior received opposed it. Just some of the key concerns cited include equity and access for low-income families visiting the parks and the economic impact on national park gateway communities from decreased visitation.
"I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal," said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the NPS press release. "Repairing infrastructure is also about access for all Americans. In order for families with young kids, elderly grandparents, or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms, and visitors centers."
Groups that resisted the original proposal are celebrating the new plan. "This is a victory for kids and families everywhere," said Sierra Club Outdoors director Jackie Ostfeld. "Nobody should be priced out of our parks."
But there are lingering concerns. Ostfeld notes that, unlike in the original plan, there was no mention of the continuation of programs like Every Kid in a Park, which provides free park passes for fourth-graders and their families. She worries that this indicates Interior Sec. Zinke, who has famously rebuked such free passes, plans to end the program at the end of this school year. "We hope this is the end of misguided efforts to raise fees for our national parks," she added.
Others are worried that increasing entrance fees is a paltry solution to address the funding issues in the national parks. The fee increase is part of ongoing efforts to address the nearly $12 billion backlog in annual repairs for park infrastructure. The NPS collected $199 million from entrance fees in the fiscal year 2016; it estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase that revenue by about $60 million to around $259 million.
"The fees will be helpful for addressing park maintenance and other needs that improve the visiting experience, but given the scope of park maintenance and other funding needs, more robust solutions are needed," said John Garder, senior director of budget and appropriations at the National Parks Conservation Association.
In addition to the increased fees, the Park Service will continue "enhancing public-private partnerships aimed at rebuilding national parks" and pursuing legislation to address the maintenance backlog. Currently, Congress is considering the National Park Service Legacy Act, a bipartisan bill that would address the full maintenance backlog using royalties from current federal onshore and offshore energy production, and the National Park Restoration Act, which could collect up to $18 billion from energy-production royalties (although the exact amount is speculative based on the market).
The first round of fee increases will go into effect on June 1, 2018.
Public Outcry Could Save National Parks From Zinke’s Dramatic Fee Hikes https://t.co/mIokqELL3y @Sierra_Magazine @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523151904.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA magazine.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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