WASHINGTON - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced 2013 dates when entrance to more than 2,000 national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and other federal lands will be free to everyone.
"Our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other public lands offer every American a place to enjoy outdoor recreation, learn about our nation's history and culture, and restore our souls and spirits by connecting with the natural beauty and wildness of our land," Salazar said. "By providing free admission, we are putting out an invitation to all Americans to visit and enjoy these extraordinary treasures that belong to all our people."
The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will waive their entrance fees and the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation will waive their standard amenity fees on Sept. 28 for National Public Lands Day and from Nov. 9 to 11 for Veterans Day weekend.
The National Park Service will also waive entrance fees on Jan. 21 for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, from April 22 to 26 during National Park Week and on Aug. 25 to celebrate the agency's 97th birthday.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will also waive entrance fees on Jan. 21 for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and on Oct.13 for National Wildlife Refuge Day.
The Bureau of Land Management will also waive standard amenity fees on Jan. 21 for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The U.S. Forest Service will also waive standard amenity fees on Jan. 21 for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and on June 8 for Get Outdoors Day.
"National parks and other public lands are becoming increasingly important for both our mental and physical health," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. "In our fast-paced world, they provide places for good, old-fashioned social networking with others - places where we can relax and unwind, where we can experience new and different things, and where we can easily share thoughts and communal activities."
Tourism and outdoor recreation are also powerful economic engines in communities across the country. Recreation on federal lands in 2009 provided 440,000 jobs and contributed $55 billion to the economy.
The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.
Active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over and a $80 annual pass for the general public.
"America's great outdoors should be experienced by everyone," Salazar said. "Our fantastic network of public lands provides world class recreational opportunities, the chance to view abundant wildlife in natural habitats, sites that showcase our nation's rich and diverse history, and some of the most incredible scenery found anyway. The fee free days will give both first time and repeat visitors a good reason to spend time in these extraordinary places."