The National Park Service Got Rid of the Yearly Park Pass?

Death Valley National Park, California. by Ian Grant, 2005.

In my recent trip over to Petrified Forest National Park and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I was pretty suprised to find out that they had done away with the yearly park pass. Usually what I’d do is wait till my pass ran out and the next trip to a National Park I’d spend the measly $50 and get it renewed. It was such a great deal for the money as you visit a couple parks a year and it has paid for itself. So I was doing some searching tonight to find out what happened and came across this article on

America the Beautiful Pass Goes On Sale in January

Last week, I wrote about not believing in coincidences, but it is purely coincidental that five days after my column on high fees contributing heavily to the decline in national park visitation, the National Park Service (NPS) and other federal agencies officially announce the America the Beautiful Pass. The ATB Pass replaces the National Parks Pass, which sold for $50, as well as the Golden Eagle, Golden Access and Golden Age passes. The new annual pass goes up 60 percent to $80 per year.

The new pass gives you more for your money, but you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the increase.

In addition to allowing entrance to all national park areas, the ATB Pass gives you free admission to other federal lands managed by the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation, but in most cases, there is no entrance fee for these lands, yet.

I’ll be devoting my column on Thursday to this subject, but in the meantime, here is the news release sent out jointly by the National Park Service and the Forest Service.

WASHINGTON– Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett and Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey today announced a new interagency recreation pass that will benefit visitors to national public lands. The new pass, authorized by the Congress in 2004, combines the benefits of existing recreation passes from five federal agencies into one comprehensive pass, the “America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.”

The new pass covers recreation opportunities on public lands managed by four Department of the Interior agencies (National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation) and by the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.

Access to most public lands remains free. The pass applies to those locations that currently have entrance or standard amenity fees.

The new program replaces the Golden Eagle, Golden Age, and the Golden Access Passports as well as the National Parks Pass. Existing passes will remain valid until expired, lost or stolen.

Sales of the new pass will begin in January 2007 and will be available at federal recreation sites that charge entrance and standard amenity fees, through government internet sites, and through select third-party vendors.

“Our federal lands boast scenic vistas, breathtaking landscapes, and unique historic and cultural sites. This new interagency pass offers a cost-effective and easy option for those who plan to visit multiple federal recreation sites,” said Deputy Secretary Scarlett. “The family vacation to these destinations is an American tradition. Visitors can now travel from a site managed by the Department of the Interior to a site managed by the Department of Agriculture without getting a different pass.

“A sightseer in Utah, for instance, can view the majestic rock formations of Bryce and Zion National Parks and then explore Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area on the Ashley National Forest using only one pass.”

“The interagency pass is a great New Year’s gift both to the public lands and to their visitors,” said Mark Rey, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, who oversees the Forest Service. “Annual interagency pass revenue will benefit public lands by providing funds for maintenance, new visitor services, and programs.”

The officials noted that 100 percent of the revenue derived from passes sold at federal recreation sites will directly benefit the selling agency and no less than 80 percent of the revenue will remain at the site where the pass was sold.

The new pass program was created by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which Congress authorized in December 2004.

The four different passes in the new interagency program are:

1) a new annual interagency pass costing $80–For visitors to multiple federal sites, the pass offers unlimited coverage of entrance and standard amenity recreation fees for a specific period of time, typically a year, beginning from the date of first use.

2) a $10 lifetime senior pass for U.S. citizens 62 or over;

3) a free lifetime access pass for citizens with permanent disabilities ; and

4) a new, free annual volunteer pass for volunteers acquiring 500 hours of service on a cumulative basis.

The new interagency pass is good at vehicle-based entry sites for all occupants in a single, non-commercial vehicle. At walk-up sites, the pass is good for the pass holder and three adults (total of four adults). There is no charge for children under 16. This represents a particularly cost-effective opportunity for families traveling to federal recreation sites. For comparison purposes, Parks Canada offers a family/group annual pass for about $140.

Some specific examples of projects funded with fee revenues include: rehabilitating the Yellowstone National Park Canyon Visitor Center and creating new exhibits at Yellowstone National Park, enhancing boat launch facilities on the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, building an accessible boardwalk at Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in Wyoming, and improving the museum at Desoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa.

The new passes, which feature award-winning landscape photographs of federal lands, are part of a new interagency “Share the Experience” Annual Federal Lands Photo Contest. The contest, sponsored by the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, and Casio, encourages visitors to submit photos of federal lands for a chance to have their image chosen for the next year’s annual pass.

The passes will be durable, plasticized, and designed with technology that will enable future improvements to the program.

For more information, please contact DOI’s U.S. Geological Survey at or phone 1-888-275-8747 Option 1. The annual pass will be available for sale through the USGS store and through the government’s federal lands recreation web portal at in January 2007.


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