Since 1996, the National Park Service has collected over $867 million in recreation fees under an experimental initiative - Recreational Fee Demonstration Program. Under the trial program, Congress authorized four federal land management agencies – the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service - to charge fees to visitors.
The legislation encouraged:
- Experimenting with new fees and fee structures for recreational activities
- Reducing the backlog of maintenance to improve the quality of the visitor experience
- Enhancing the protection of natural and cultural resources from visitor impacts.
Eighty percent of the money remains in the parks collecting the fees creating a powerful incentive to make local improvements to show results and therefore increase visitor support of the new fees. The Director of the National Park Service distributes the remaining 20 percent of the fees collected to special emphasis projects in the parks.