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Denali: Climber Comments Needed

Posted on: January 26th, 2011 by Luke Bauer

Since last fall the Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and American Mountain Guides Association have been working with Denali National Park on their proposal to raise mountaineering fees 150% from $200 to $500. We are concerned that such a high fee at Denali is unnecessary and unfair, and are looking for ways to cut mountaineering program costs and generate alternative sources of revenue to support Denali climbers. In these tough economic times, such an unprecedented mountaineering fee increase may price many Americans out of their own National Parks including the world-class climbing on Denali. The joint AF, AAC, and AMGA comment letter can be found downloaded in (PDF) format.

Bullet points (optional but suggested) – a list of points that supporters can use when crafting their own letters:

  • Recreation is mandated as a Denali National Park purpose in the Park’s enabling law, with mountaineering specifically acknowledged in the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
  • The number of climbers on Denali has remained static for the last few decades (1,100-1,300 annually) but the cost of the Program has grown dramatically. The Park unreasonably demands 100% cost recovery from climbers which is inconsistent with its past practice and how other national parks recover costs for similar programs. Denali should support a higher-percentage of the Mountaineering Program out of the general Park budget.
  • Denali greatly overstates the cost of mountaineering in the Park and many “cuts” to the Program can be done on paper, but there are a few prominent areas (helicopter costs and NPS staffing) where the scope of the Mountaineering Program should be modified to reduce its overall cost to the Park.
  • Non-climbing Park visitors greatly value Denali and its long mountaineering tradition. Because mountaineering is a specific Park purpose it is appropriate to nominally increase entrance fees at Denali to fund important uses, activities and programs. The Park should explore additional revenue streams to support mountaineering, but not at the expense of ignoring modifications to the Program itself.
  • Please use the letter-writing tool on accessfund.org to urge NPS officials to protect mountaineering opportunities at Denali National Park. Alternatively, hard copies can be sent to:

    Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve
    ATT: Mountaineering Fees
    P.O. Box 9
    Denali Park, AK 99755

    The language in the sample letter below is editable, so please include your specific ideas that you would like to include with your comment letterThe NPS is looking for your unique proposals for the appropriate scope of Denali’s Mountaineering Program and how to best pay for related costs. If you have climbed at Denali use the letter to reference your experiences there.

    Superintendent Paul Anderson
    Denali National Park and Preserve
    PO Box 9 – Denali Park, AK 99755
    DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov

    RE: Comments to the Denali National Park Mountaineering Fee Increase Proposal

    Dear Superintendent Anderson:

    My name is ______ and I write with concern about the proposal to significantly increase mountaineering fees at Denali National Park 150% from $200 to $500 per climber. I do not support Denali’s mountaineering fee increase proposal because 1) climbers are unfairly charged for costs outside the scope of the Mountaineering Program, 2) there are aspects of the mountaineering program that may be modified to reduce costs and enhance the service provided to the climbing community, and 3) additional sources of Park revenue may more appropriately balance what Denali charges mountaineers to climb this world-class peak. I urge the National Park Service to consider a more reasonable fee that better reflects the true cost of mountaineering in the Park, and pays for an appropriately-sized and managed Mountaineering Program.

    For 100 years mountaineers have been climbing Denali, and this activity should be viewed as a traditional and appropriate use of the Park. Federal law directs the NPS to establish Denali National Park management policies that provide “the freest use of the park for recreation purposes,” and specifically for “continued opportunities, including reasonable access, for mountain climbing, mountaineering and other wilderness recreational activities.” Because of its long history and specific management direction from Congress to maintain reasonable mountaineering access, mountain climbing should be viewed as a primary use and purpose of Denali National Park. Accordingly, the NPS should enhance and protect mountaineering while also ensuring that high fees do not unreasonably deter climber visitation.

    Denali’s proposed 150% fee increase proposed by the NPS will make it too expensive for many American climbers to access Denali, one of the most classic and highly sought-after summits in the World, and the fee should be set at a more appropriate level. Climbers are also unfairly charged for programs at Denali National Park that have nothing to do with the mountaineering, and budget documents mischaracterize the actual costs of the Mountaineering Program. The proposed $500 per person climbing fee for Denali and Foraker is not proportional to the costs incurred by Denali climbers and is unprecedented when compared to other federal public land recreation fees. The NPS should identify a reasonable and equitable fee—much less than $500—to climb Denali.

    Denali should analyze its various rescue and administrative services in the Park to determine whether it may be possible to eliminate or significantly reduce costs. The NPS should consider alternatives that streamline the extensive and expensive management practices within the Park, including placing more volunteers into the rotation on Denali mountain patrols, and limiting highly-paid NPS staff who conduct administrative services to climbers during the off-season. The Park should also reduce costs related to supplying the high-altitude camps and other efforts that support SAR readiness. My specific ideas for Mountaineering Program modification include:

    Denali National Park must preserve for future generations the unique natural conditions of the Park including its unique mountaineering opportunities. An important part of maintaining reasonable access for climbing at Denali is to keep mountaineering fees at a level that most American can afford. In order to accomplish this goal, Denali should identify the actual costs of mountaineering in the Park, adjust the scope for its Mountaineering Program as recommended in this letter, and implement a fee structure that is consistent with NPS policy and the fee rates applied to other Park users at Denali and in National Parks  nationally.

    Sincerely,

    _____________________

    [your name, hometown]

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