The National Park Service (NPS) is talking, again, of increasing fees for climbers on Denali or Foraker in Denali National Park from $200 to $500. There are a lot of reasons that this doesn't make sense. Here are a few:
For anyone interested, scientific data on Search and Rescue (SAR) published in 2009 by Travis Heggie and Michael Amundsen can be found here:
Climbing and mountaineering present a low percentage of SAR costs. There is no justifiable reason to discriminate against climbers and mountaineers with regard to fees on the basis that we are a riskier user group. We represent only 7% of SAR costs nationwide. Hiking presents 48%, boating presents 21%, etc.
Think about it. We do not deserve to experience financial discrimination simply because our sport presents the appearance of risk. With regard to rescue, we are not nearly as risky population as hikers (day hikers are the biggest risk!). Activities other than climbing or mountaineering comprise 93% of overall SAR costs.
If we aren't more of a risk than other groups, why should we pay $500 to go climbing for two-three weeks while others pay $80 for a whole year of hiking? Oh wait, and we still pay the standard park entry fee in addition unless you have that $80 'America the Beautiful' Parks Pass.
From the American Alpine Club (AAC) site:
"Comments from the public will be accepted between November 1, 2010 and January 31, 2011. Public Comments may be submitted via email to: DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov or faxed to (907) 683-9612. Written comments may also be submitted by mail to: Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755."
The NPS argument FOR fee increase can be found here.
The money they are talking about spending 'in support' of each climber might more accurately be assigned to paying salaries, feeding rangers, the yearly contract for the helicopter support used to fly all food and personnel to and from the mountain (sometimes necessary, sometimes quite unnecessary). The rangers are good people, but the argument made by the NPS for increasing climbing fees on Denali is biased.
Of course, you can always go climb on a different peak, but that's another issue.
NPS suggested options for voicing your opinion can be found here.