Zinke defends plan to raise park fees amid criticism over travel

Ceria Alfonso
Marcha 14, 2018

Simply raising the park fees will not address the $11.7 billion National Parks maintenance backlog, Zinke said.

"I resent the fact of your insults, and I resent the fact that you mislead", Zinke told Senator Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate energy committee after she pressed him on his spending.

"I never took a private jet anywhere", Zinke added, saying it was "innuendo" to suggest he was on a luxurious private plane when he instead took charter propeller flights.

"I would say there is an argument (for cutting)", Zinke said."There is an argument on the other side too". "And I'll go through line by line". Zinke called it part of the president's plan for "energy dominance".

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told Zinke he has fallen far short of his self-professed role model, Theodore Roosevelt, a renowned conservationist who protected about 230 million acres of public lands. By contrast, Zinke "pushed the largest reduction of. treasured public lands in American history", proposed opening most of America's coasts to offshore oil drilling and "played a shell game" with wildfire budgeting during the most expensive wildfire season in USA history, Wyden said.

Interior's inspector general is investigating Zinke's travel and is expected to issue a report within a few weeks.

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Zinke also faced questions from Louisiana's Republican Senator John Kennedy. I think I'm going to mark down Washington as opposed to oil and gas drilling.

Likewise, Maine has little recoverable oil and gas off its coast, Zinke said.

Zinke's proposal to open 90 percent of the nation's offshore reserves to development has sparked widespread opposition along the East and West coasts. "So, we're looking at ways to make sure we have more revenue in the front door of our parks themselves".

The Park Service now charges between $25 and $30 for a vehicle fee at the country's busiest national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Zion.

Seniors used to be able to buy a lifetime pass for $10 but that was raised to $80, the same cost as an annual pass for nonseniors.

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