Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had the gall to blame "free passes to elderly, fourth graders, veterans, disabled" park visitors for increased admission prices.
Last year, the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to nearly triple the admission price of national parks, from $25 to $70.
And in testimony to a skeptical panel of lawmakers on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Zinke outlined his appalling reasoning.
“When you give discounted or free passes to elderly, fourth graders, veterans, disabled, and you do it by the carload,” Zinke said, “there’s not a whole lot of people who actually pay at our front door.”
He stressed that he plans to keep free admission for those groups. But he noted that “we’re looking at ways to make sure we have more revenue in the front door of our parks themselves.”
But if Zinke had a good-faith intention to improve funding for America’s national parks, he might look at his own wallet first.
He chartered rides on private and military jets, at a cost of tens of thousands to taxpayers. On one occasion, he took a $39,000 ride in a helicopter, paid for with money earmarked for fighting wildfires.
He even appeared to fly on a military jet to a congressional fundraiser in Alaska, in a potential violation of the law.
Moreover, the strength of Zinke’s commitment to national parks is dubious. His treatment of the National Park Service advisory board has been abominable. Indeed, two months ago, 9 of its 12 members resigned in protest.
Zinke is liked little better by the general public, following his decision to shrink two national monuments. That move was protested by environmental groups, Native American tribes, and the founder of Patagonia.
This White House has no bounds of shamelessness when trying to defend the indefensible. And that includes blaming veterans, the elderly, and disabled people rather than accepting even a modicum of responsibility.