‘Prioritize military & veterans:’ Congressman write letter to National Park Service
Credit: ABC 13, Kaylee Shipley
Congressman Ben Cline (R-VA-06) and Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH-01) led a bipartisan letter to National Park Service (NPS) Director Charles Sams requesting that NPS institutes a policy that reserves spots for active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans to enter lottery systems at national parks on Friday.
Currently, the NPS has a lottery system for several attractions at park units across the United States. A lottery system may only let in a set number of individuals to a portion of a national park, with slots often going quickly, according to Clines’ office.
The NPS already gives active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans free access to national parks, but there are no spots reserved in these lottery systems for them, often resulting in them not being selected, Clines’ office said.
Cline said the bipartisan letter was co-signed by Representatives Ken Buck (R-CO-04), Ted Budd (R-NC-13), Jim Costa (D-CA-16), Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04), Byron Donalds (R-FL-19), Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), David Joyce (R-OH-14), Fred Keller (R-PA-12), Trent Kelly (R-MS-01), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), Young Kim (R-CA-39), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), Conor Lamb (D-PA-17), Susie Lee (D-NV-03), David McKinley (R-WV-01), Daniel Meuser (R-PA-09), Mary Miller (R-IL-15), Richard Neal (D-MA-01), Paul Tonko (D-NY-21), David Trone (D-MD-06), and Robert Wittman (R-VA-01).
Read more in their letter here or below.
Their letter is as follows:
Dear Director Sams,
We are reaching out concerning your lottery system for several attractions at park units across the United States.
We acknowledge that often times these lottery systems were established due to concerns around overcrowding, damage to park resources, or other reasons.
There isn’t a specific law that articulates National Park Services’ (NPS) authority to institute lottery systems, rather, the agency relies on its general authority under the Organic Act of 1916 to administer lands and resources under their jurisdiction. Specifically, the Organic Act directs NPS “….to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations” (Act of Aug. 25, 1916, ch. 408, 1, 39 Stat. 535.).
We understand that each park administers their own lottery system with varying requirements from unit to unit. We would like to bring to your attention on how these lottery systems affect our active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans.
Last year, Congress passed legislation providing free annual America the Beautiful passes for active-duty personnel and free lifetime passes for Gold Star Families and Veterans in the Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act (see Public Law 117-81; National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022).
Even though these groups already have free access to National Parks, there are not spots reserved in these lottery systems for them, often resulting in them not being selected.
We seek answers to the following questions:
- How many national park units institute a lottery system restricting access to certain portions of the park?
- How many national park units require pre-registration and/or a fee to enter the lottery system?
- How many active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans annually attend any of the national park units?
We request that the National Park Service institute a policy for lottery systems that would set aside a portion of the lottery selections to be reserved for active-duty military (personnel and dependents), Gold Star families, and Veterans.
These women and men who serve our country stand as heroes for all Americans.
This is a small change but would have a positive impact on all active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans. We appreciate your attention to this matter and request a response no later than October 24th, 2022. We look forward to your response.