U.S. Senators Want to Learn More About the Impact of National Park Attendance

by Taylor Cunningham

As the National Parks system records record-breaking attendance numbers, some U.S. senators worry that the excess foot traffic is doing damage to the fragile ecosystems. And they’re calling on the Biden administration to look into the matter.

Two such lawmakers are Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Sen. Angus King of Mine. Last week they stressed that the excess visits could be impacting not just the parks but also the surrounding communities. And they said the packed trails may also be giving visitors a bad experience.

So they asked NPS Director Charles Sams to hold a congressional briefing about the issue, per the Associated Press.

According to Daines and King, all parks, including their states’ Yellowstone National Park and Acadia National Park have recorded “historic numbers” of visitors recently. Over the past decade, Yellowstone’s attendance jumped from 3.6 million to nearly 5 million. And Acadia’s skyrocketed from an average of 2.5 million visitors to 4.1 million in the same amount of time.

As the senators wrote, the national parks system “is one of our nation’s greatest treasures. And as such, we must be vigilant in ensuring that they continue to be available for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of this and future generations.”

Of the more than 400 US national parks, Yellowstone ranks 12th with the most visits and Acadia ranks 16th. The most frequented park is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which brought in a staggering 15.9 guests last year.

Grand Teton Among the National Parks Preparing for Another Record Breaking Season

Grand Teton National Park is another location reporting a historic rise in visits. Since 2020, attendance has jumped nearly 10%. And officials expect another rise in numbers this coming summer.

While the park spans an impressive 2.2 million acres, most visitors only spend time within a half a mile radius of the roadways and parking areas. So travelers tend to see a lot of congestion.

And Yellowstone is seeing the same phenomenon. So both parks are looking for solutions that could help better the experience for park goes and lessen the burden certain spaces are feeling amid the rise in population.

“We are actively developing defensible short and long-term solutions, with our partners, which focus on the protection of park resources, improving visitor experience, and considering impacts on park staffing, infrastructure, and our gateway communities and regional economies,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a press release.

To help, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Glacier National Park are now requiring all visitors to make reservations ahead of time. And Yellowstone and Grand Teton are considering following the same protocol.