Though I am writing as an individual and not for the organization, as a long time board member of the Glacier Fund and now the Glacier Conservancy, the guest editorial by the L.A. Times that appeared recently in the Daily Inter Lake about what to do about the National Parks is only half right. Yes, the numbers visiting Glacier Park are unsustainable if we care about the wildlife and the natural resources, and limiting entry as they are proposing in Zion may well be a partial solution.
No, user fees are way too low to even fractionally sustain the operations and backlog of critical projects waiting for attention. The problem is not the general admission for adults and children; it is the Senior Pass (62 and over) that is the big problem. If you go to an NFL game, you pay an average of $350/game. For the NBA average price is $96/game. Major League Baseball is $52/game. A year long Senior Pass to all the parks is $20. One half a tank of gas to visit every National Park for a year! Worse, lifetime Senior Passes cost $80 (or two tanks of gas).
On a real dollar basis, the national parks’ budgets have actually decreased for the past decade. Why? The federal government spends $660 BILLION more annually than it is receiving in taxes and revenue. The deficits and resulting debt buildup are unsustainable, and users are going to have to pay to support the parks, just as they pay to go to a movie, or to fly in an airplane. We at the Glacier Conservancy are doing our best to use philanthropy to help plug this gap. But …
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Nick Chickering, Whitefish