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Western public land agencies propose higher recreation fees to offset heavy usage

Grand Teton National Park is one of the western recreation spots proposing fee increases.
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Grand Teton National Park is one of the western recreation spots proposing fee increases.

News brief: 

Popular recreation areas across the Mountain West are proposing price hikes for campsites, backcountry permits, parking spots and other amenities. Public land agencies say they’re responding to increased wear and tear on trails and facilities.

Fee changes could impact popular national parks like Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon and Glacier. At Zion, for example, proposed fees would jump by 50 percent, or $15, at some campgrounds.

Mike Reynolds, deputy director at the National Park Service, said in recent congressional testimony that his agency needs extra funding to keep up with demand in recreation areas. Fees help pay for staffing, maintenance and rescue efforts.

“Visitors expect to find high-quality facilities, which enable a safe and memorable experience. Yet many of the roads, trails, restrooms and facilities in national parks are aging and strained by underfunding,” Reynolds said.

Lesser-known Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands could also see price hikes, including in Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. Increases recently took effect in Idaho and will later this year in New Mexico.

In many cases, agencies are considering public feedback this fall before they move forward with any changes.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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