New Oversight on Climbers’ Fee Increases

As you know, the usage fee for climbing Rainier increased from US$30 to US$43 and the fee for attempting Mount McKinley / Denali is proposed to be raised from US$200 to US$500 for the purpose of funding the parks’ climbing safety and sanitation operations. The climbing community has been actively and professionally advocating that the US National Parks Service should consider alternative means of funding those costs without burdening climbers with excessive fees.

As a lobbyist and former Congressional aide, I have to hand it to the American Alpine Club (AAC), the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) the Access Fund for getting Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), the Chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee, to ask National Parks Director Jonathan Jarvis about his agency’s increase and proposed increase at a hearing on the administration’s budget held on March 30, 2011 (see the video by clicking here and going to 37:35). Chairman Udall even asked about charging international climbers a higher fee than American climbers, as is done frequently overseas.

Having such questions asked during a Congressional hearing demonstrates and provides several things: 1) The AAC, AMGA and Access Fund have raised sufficient interest and concern about the issue from a key Congressional leader; 2) Congress will be monitoring the National Parks Service’s actions on this issue and expects the final decision to be well reasoned; and 3) Keeps the door open to further and possibly renewed discussion with the National Park Service.

If you are a member of the AAC, as I am, or the AMGA and contribute to the Access Fund, you can be proud of their efforts. They’ve taken a strong step up to providing for an appropriate resolution to the usage fee increases.

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