With time running short for a multitude of reforms Republicans seek for the National Park Service, the House Resources Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that combines them.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, chairman of its Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, hailed the package (which has already passed the Senate) as maybe the greatest park reform of the past 20 years.Specific details of provisions include:
- Forcing movie makers to pay for using national parks. Such fees have been banned by law since 1948.
- Extending an experimental fee system allowing participating parks to keep 80 percent of entrance and other fees they collect to improve facilities. The other 20 percent are distributed among other parks.
- Reforming concessions in parks so that most incumbent concessioners would no longer be granted a preferential right to renew their contract. Instead, concessions would be awarded through open competition.
- Establishing a scientific research program that would work closely with colleges and universities to establish baseline data for long-term trends on the condition of parks.
- Requiring that before new parks are created, they be studied to ensure they are outstanding examples of the nation's natural, cultural and recreational purposes.
- Requiring budget reform, including requiring each park to prepare comprehensive budgets that are made available to the public.
- Creating a new collectible "National Park Passports" allowing unlimited access to national parks and monuments for a year for $50.
Congress has only about four working weeks left before it will likely adjourn for the year, and Hansen said that a bill combining reforms Republicans seek is the only way now to pass them in time. It now goes to the full House.