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National Park Service plans climbing fees increase


The 11,000 plus climbers attempting Rainier’s summit make up one half of one percent of Mount Rainier National Park’s annual visitation, which is approximately two million. The high cost of managing a mountaineering program in relation to the small percentage of the visitors who benefit from it qualifies mountaineering on Mount Rainier as a "Special Park Use."

In July 1995, Mount Rainier National Park implemented the Mountaineering Cost Recovery program. This program collects a fee from summit climbers when they register to climb. The authority for Special Park Uses is found in 31 USC 9701, 16 USC (3a) (1988) and management guidelines are in NPS Director’s Orders #53. Since its inception, there has been no fee increase. The cost of a one-time permit is $15, while an annual permit is $25 per person. Because of the increased costs of doing business, personnel, flight time, supplies, materials, equipment, and training, the amount currently collected does not meet the needs to effectively manage the current mountaineering program.

The established mountaineering program is vital to visitor safety, resource protection and visitor satisfaction. The current program protects the Wilderness designation of fragile alpine zones found on the upper mountain, while providing climbers the services and access they need to ascend the peak.

An analysis of the current mountaineering program at Mount Rainier National Park and a new plan for operation of the program is now available for public comment, according to the park’s Chief Ranger Jill Hawk. The analysis considers varying levels of service based on public expectation, protecting the upper mountain resource, and public and employee safety. It allows park managers to determine priorities and needs as they protect park values and provides for quality visitor experiences.

The document, titled “Analysis of the Mount Rainier Climbing Program” is now available for public comment. It details specific operational and administrative information about the climbing program at Mount Rainier National Park. Safety, education, program administration, and human waste management as well as cost recovery fees, ranger functions and public expectations are all covered. Superintendent Dave Uberuaga noted that, “Climbers visiting Mount Rainier have come to expect quality visitor services and the preservation of this unique mountaineering resource. To keep pace with current trends, provide enhanced visitor services and protect the mountain for future use and enjoyment, it will be necessary to raise the special use fee to the preferred alternative of $30...” This document presents, and analyzes four alternatives for managing the mountaineering program at Mount Rainier National Park. This analysis is based on public expectations and fiscal needs to meet them.

Limited copies of the analysis (13 pages) are available by writing the park at Mount Rainier National Park, Star Route, Tahoma Woods, WA 98304-9751 or by calling (360) 569-2211, ext. 2301. The analysis document can also be found via the Internet at .  Comments can be sent via the Internet to The National Park Service will accept comments on the analysis and proposed cost increase through January 22, 2002. Written comments regarding the proposed changes to the Mountaineering Program can be sent to the attention of Chief Ranger Jill Hawk, at the address listed above.

Comments will also be accepted at three public meetings scheduled for the following dates, locations and times:
Yakima December 9, 2002;  Yakima Valley  December 11, 2002; and Seattle December 17, 2002

Material from Analysis of the Mount Rainier Climbing Program and other sources  --Webmeister


Commentary by Scott Silver on 11-27-02

Looks as though the price of climbing within the National Parks will soon be going up --- straight up. With luck, a concerted effort on the part of the climbing/mountaineering community today can still halt this trend of ever-rising recreation user fees.

Fee-Demo (and specifically the local retention of fees) is the heart of the problem.

Just to clarify, the Rainier and the McKinley/Foraker fees are not demo fees, nor are they remitted to the US Treasury. The fees are special use fees authorized under OMB Circular A-25, which allows the NPS to keep all the money locally at Mt. Rainier (or Denali in the case of that fee) to offset direct program expenses. This doesn't change that there are strong concerns that climbers are being asked to pay through fees for services that are provided free to other Park visitors.

Local “Cost Recovery”  would not be possible were it not for fee-demo.  Without fee-demo authority, any fees collected would, by law, be passed to the treasury. Without fee-demo, there would be no incentive to charge higher fees because the increased revenues not be retained locally.

Fee-demo was never about land managers collecting $5 every time you walk in the woods. It is about putting outdoor recreation and all of the Great Outdoors on a free-market, cash-carry, basis. Five dollar hiking fees were only the ‘thin edge of the wedge’. Today you are starting to see the wedge thicken.

It is time for climbing and other recreation organizations to come out solidly and unequivocally in opposition to fee-demo.

Please send your comments to the NPS at the address shown above.

Scott Silver, Wild Wilderness
248 NW Wilmington Avenue, Bend, OR  97701


Commentary by Bob Speik on 11-27-02

In my view:   If a traditional family of three plans to summit say, Mount St. Helens, the Fee Demo parking permit is $15 for three days, and a one day Climb Permit is $45, for a family total price of $60.  (Better go to a few movies?)  Some proponents of the fees say that "if the fees are too much for some families, so be it.  There are too many climbers anyway!"  The services provided climbers may be desirable for many folks, but "pay to play on public land" is social discrimination.  

This is not a problem only for folks who are attempting to climb Mt. Rainier.  The underlying problem is the documented lack of trust in the general accounting practices of the land management agencies by Congress which has led to big cutbacks in Congressional funding to the agencies.  The USFS, as an example, is responding by trying to charge the public for parking and soon, for recreation opportunities and the "necessary expenses" of managing their "customers".  (Meanwhile, grazing, mineral extraction and yes, logging continue to be subsidized.)

The local USFS folks hope and expect that the Recreation public will complain to Congress and that funds will be restored for Recreation.   As an example, some years ago Congress cut back funds allocated to the National Park Service.  The NPS responded by closing the Washington Column to visitors!  The public, very upset, complained to Congress which soon restored the NPS funds.  We need to tell Congress to restore free Recreation on our public lands and halt this slippery slide toward pay to view and play on public land.
--Robert Speik




Read more . . .

Fee demo rejected by USFS employees

Fee demo "has fallen short" - Senator Craig, a former proponent

Fee demo demonstrations in Bend Oregon