Since he took over the Interior Department, Secretary James G. Watt has wanted to be able to increase entrance fees for the national parks as part of the Reagan administration's drive to get the users of federal services to pay for them. The Carter administration had wanted to do the same thing, but Congress blocked it by freezing the fees at their current levels.
Now the General Accounting Office has chimed in with a lengthy report recommending that Congress repeal the freeze so that the National Park Service can establish guidelines for the fees and then adjust them. The GAO also recommended that the $10 ceiling on the Golden Eagle Passport, which allows a year's unlimited access to the parks, be abolished. A $25 fee for the pass would be appropriate, GAO said.
GAO reviewed policies at 71 of the 333 national parks and concluded that if fees were established or increased at those alone, about $18 million could be raised annually. Among other things, the GAO suggests that Interior increase the entrance fee from $3 per car to $7 per car at three of the West's most popular (and spectacular) parks: Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Teton.