In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. National Park Service is effectively doubling the cost of the America the Beautiful Annual Pass in 2024. It may not seem that way based on face value because you’re still paying $80 annually. But in a somewhat quiet move, the federal government has decided to change the cards in 2024 to have only one signature line instead of two.
Until now, the senior citizen, military, and other discount annual passes have had just one signature line. But the standard, full-price passes have had two signature lines. This allows a couple, for example, to each use the card one at a time for a single $80 charge.
In our case, we generally travel to the national parks together, so entering at the same time isn’t unusual. But we have had situations where Jessi was traveling for work and took the annual pass with her. That allowed her free entry into parks she would be near.
Or in a more typical case, you might be camping in a national park with your spouse or family members. With two passholder signatures, either one of you could run into town for supplies. But, now, only the person who signed the card can do so and gain reentry on the pass. This is going to complicate things for a lot of national park visitors. That is, unless they’re willing and able to pay for two passes at $80 each.
A pass still covers the pass owner and all occupants in a personal vehicle at vehicle-fee parks. And it covers the owner and up to three additional adults at person-based parks. But in either case, you all have to enter together.
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) authorizes recreation fees to for the NPS. The NPS uses revenue generated by recreation fees to repair, maintain, and enhance facilities. They also provide interpretation, information, and other visitor services with the money. And they restore habitat directly related to wildlife-dependent recreation. Plus, they provide law enforcement related to public use and recreation at the park where the fee is collected and throughout the national park system.
As it stands, this seems to be a done deal for at least two years. The latest action taken by Congress continues the FLREA through 2025. But you can contact your congressional representative or U.S. Senator to see if they would consider changes in the future. They could restore the second signature line. Or perhaps offer a second pass for a reduced price to help families with these new, higher fees.
To find contact information for your members of congress, visit https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative or https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm .