WASHINGTON – Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced that, beginning this Veterans Day (Nov. 11), U.S. veterans, members of the U.S. armed forces and their families will be admitted free-of-charge on Veterans Day to most public lands managed by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture.
The administrative fee waiver of entrance and/or standard amenity fees will apply annually on Veterans Day at public recreation lands managed by Interior’s National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation and Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.
“The fine men and women of the armed forces, both past and present, have fought to keep all Americans free,” said Kempthorne. “Allowing free admission for recreation on our public recreation lands is a small but appropriate way for us to say ‘thank you’ to these American heroes and their families. My hope is that they experience a day filled with recreational enjoyment.”
"This is one small way we can show our appreciation to the men and women who keep America and our public lands free for all to enjoy," said Johanns. "It seems only fitting that we would give our veterans free access to the National Forests and Grasslands on Veterans Day."
Both Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson applauded the announcement.
"America owes a great deal to the men and women in this country who have worn the military uniform," said Rumsfeld. "I applaud this decision to allow them a day of recreation on the day we honor them for their contributions, past and present."
“Veterans Day is a day to honor the 24 million Americans who have served this nation in the armed forces,” said Nicholson. “Waiving the usual fees for veterans on Nov. 11 shows the appreciation of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture for our nation’s veterans. I salute Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and the men and women of their departments for this decision that ensures veterans have the chance to appreciate the grandeur of the nation they have served.”
The announcement came during testimony on H.R. 5452, legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds.
"I am proud to have fought for this initial but important change for our nation's heroes, and that my constituent Robert Kupp and all of his fellow veterans will never again have to pay an entrance fee for a national park on Veterans' Day," said Thomas M. Reynolds (R-NY). "This means America's veterans will have easier access to America's great public lands like Joshua Tree National Park in California, Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site -- which is near my home in Buffalo, New York -- and literally hundreds more federal public lands that charge an entrance fee. Today's announcement by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture is a fitting benefit for our nation's veterans."
The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, passed by the 108th Congress, overhauled the fee system that governs the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge System, the National Forest System, certain public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and recreational lands administered by the Bureau of Reclamation. The Act established a new multi-agency pass to cover entrance fees and standard amenity fees on these lands. The target rollout of the new pass is scheduled for January 2007.
The Veterans Day waiver of fees will apply annually to veterans and members of the U.S. armed forces.