King and Daines call for national parks briefing to examine challenges and benefits of record visitor numbers

WASHINGTON DC- U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the National Parks Subcommittee, are urging the Biden administration to provide information on the impact of the increase national park tours about parks, visitors and local communities. In a letter to National Park Service Director Charles Sams, the senators request a congressional briefing on the impacts, positive and negative, of the national park’s historic visitor numbers so the committee can better address the situation. The letter comes after months of comments the senators have received from senior NPS officials and conservation experts over concerns about Americans “loving our parks to death.”

“We are writing to request a briefing from members of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee and their staff on the increase in visitation to the National Park and its impact on park units, staff and local communities,” the senators wrote. “With visitor numbers increasing significantly over the past ten years to major destination park units, it is important that we are made aware of the impact, both positive and negative, so that the Committee can better deal with the situation and work to resolve any issues.”

“Last July, Yellowstone National Park reached a milestone by welcoming 1 million visitors in a single month, and overall annual visitation increased from 3,640,185 in 2010 to 4,860,242 in 2021. Yellowstone National Park ‘Acadia also saw significant increases from 2,504,208 to 4,069,098 over the same period. period of time,” the Senators continue. “We should continue to encourage visitation to all of our national park units, however, as visitation increases it is important that we know the extent of the impact.”

“Our national park system is one of our nation’s greatest treasures, and as such, we must be vigilant to ensure they continue to be available for the benefit and enjoyment of people of this generation. and future generations”, conclude the senators.

Concluding their letter, the senators ask Director Sams to provide the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks with a brief that includes the following:

  • A Snapshot of Park Visitor Trends in Busy Parks
  • A look at staffing trends at heavily visited parks
  • Insight into staff morale, housing and retention at heavily visited parks
  • Which parks, if any, are experiencing unmanageable park attendance
  • Which parks, if any, are implementing new policies to accommodate increased visitation
  • What the National Park Service is doing to encourage visitation to less-visited park units, and any limitations placed on the National Park Service to encourage visitation to other federal or state public recreation areas.

A member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee, Senator King is one of the strongest voices in the Senate defending public lands and encouraging outdoor recreation. He recently received the first National Park Foundation (NPF) “Hero” award. Senator King helped pass the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA); the legislation includes the Restore Our Parks Act – a bill spearheaded by Senator King – and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Ongoing Funding Act. The landmark legislative package continues Senator King’s career focus on conservation efforts, tracing back to his work before running for office throughout his years as governor and his Senate service. During his time at Blaine House, Governor King was responsible for conserving more land in Maine than all the governors before him combined.

The full letter can be read HERE or below.

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Dear Manager Sams,

We are writing to request a briefing from members of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks and their staff on the increase in visitation to the National Park and its impact on park units, staff and local communities. As visitor numbers have increased dramatically over the past ten years to major destination park units, it is important that we are made aware of the impacts, both positive and negative, so that the committee can better deal with the situation. .

Last July, Yellowstone National Park reached a major milestone by welcoming 1 million visitors in a single month, and the total number of annual visits increased from 3,640,185 in 2010 to 4,860,242 in 2021. The national park Acadia also saw significant increases from 2,504,208 to 4,069,098 over the same period. period. As international and domestic travel begins to increase after the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect this trend to continue. We should continue to encourage visitation to all of our national park units, however, as visitation increases it is important that we know the extent of the impact.

Accordingly, we respectfully request that you submit to the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks a briefing note containing the following:

  • A Snapshot of Park Visitor Trends in Busy Parks
  • A Snapshot of Staffing Trends at Highly Visited Parks
  • Insight into staff morale, housing and retention at heavily visited parks
  • Which parks, if any, are experiencing unmanageable park attendance
  • Which parks, if any, are implementing new policies to accommodate increased visitation
  • What the National Park Service is doing to encourage visitation to less-visited park units, and any limitations placed on the National Park Service to encourage visitation to other federal or state public recreation areas.

Our system of national parks is one of our nation’s greatest treasures and as such we must ensure that they continue to be available for the benefit and enjoyment of people of this and future generations. . Thanks for your help.

Truly