Thanks for reconsidering park-fee hike

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Last October, we urged the National Park Service and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to re-think their proposal to raise much-needed money for park infrastructure by raising fees that would discourage visits to Glacier National Park and other national treasures.

So did thousands of other Americans.

It appears that the Department of the Interior got the message, loud and clear.

Last week, a spokeswoman for Zinke said that officials have “taken the public’s suggestions seriously and have amended the plan” to reflect those comments.

Raising the weekly fee for a carload of visitors to Glacier Park from $30 to $70 during the summer months probably seemed like a good idea to bureaucrats sitting in cramped offices in Washington, D.C., but for families living on middle-class incomes in the wide-open spaces of Montana, it just seemed like one more tax on folks just barely getting by.

We’re glad that Zinke and other officials are working on a way to maintain our parks for the enjoyment of all of us, but there has to be a better way than raising prices to discourage use in the first place.

We certainly like the sound of a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines of Montana that would use revenue from energy production on federal lands to create a maintenance fund for the park system. That is more likely to take money from those who can afford to pay it.

We also still think a tiered entry fee should be considered. Currently, you either pay for a week or a year, but lots of visitors only use the park one day a year. Perhaps $30 for one day? $40 for three days? And $70 for seven days? That way, day-trippers would still be paying the same fee as now, and there would be more revenue as well from the tourists who would gladly pay $70 for week-long vacation access.

No word yet on what alternative fee plan the Park Service will introduce, but they should not give up. An increase in revenue can be accomplished, and is sorely needed, but the needs of visitors should also be taken into account.

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