Entrance fees for the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other public lands will be waived from Veterans Day onwards.
In an initiative declared by the Department of the Interior on Wednesday, veterans and Gold Star families will be allowed to visit national parks and other public lands for free starting Veterans Day next month. US Secretary of the Interior David L Bernhardt made the announcement at the Iowa Gold Star Museum. From November 11, entrance fees for the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation sites will be waived for veterans and Gold Star families. They will have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands.
The @realDonaldTrump Administration is committed to honoring the brave men & women who have served in our armed forces and their families. Starting this Veterans Day, all veterans and Gold Star Families will have free access to our nation’s public lands. https://t.co/fUrlrCmVDo pic.twitter.com/Qn7aJ2tKCo— Secretary David Bernhardt (@SecBernhardt) October 28, 2020
“Our veterans and Gold Star Families have made incredible sacrifices to defend our freedoms and our homeland. Ensuring that they are able to enjoy all of the natural wonders of the country that they’ve served is one small way of saying thank you,” US Republican Senator Chuck Grassley stated. “I’m glad to join Secretary Bernhardt here in Iowa today at the Gold Star Military Museum for this historic announcement.” They will also have access to a host of activities available on these Federal lands to fit any lifestyle. It includes serene to high octane activities such as hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing, and climbing.
Veterans and Gold Star Families Will Soon Have Free Admission to All National Parks https://t.co/SRpf36mWAN— Military.com (@Militarydotcom) October 29, 2020
Active-duty service members and their families already enjoy free access to these public sites under existing department rules, reports Military Times. In light of the new announcement, this benefit now extends to more than 20 million more individuals in recognition of their service and sacrifice on behalf of the country. “With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veteran’s Day and every single day thereafter,” Secretary Bernhardt said.
The announcement will go into effect on Veteran's Day. https://t.co/Vm6OvY37ey— We Are Iowa Local 5 (@weareiowa5news) October 29, 2020
A veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves. For the purpose of availing the free services, they must be able to present one of the following forms of identification, Department of Defense Identification Card, Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC), Veteran ID Card, Veterans designation on a state-issued US driver’s license or identification card. Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost their lives in the line of duty.
"Wounded and disabled veterans, indeed all veterans and their families, find peace and personal renewal in nature," Team River Runner, an adaptive sports program that helps in the healing process of veterans and their families, said. "The opportunity to enjoy the American jewels of nature-our National Park System - with free entry into these parks will speak volumes regarding our nation's desire to honor American citizens who sign a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their life."
Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said, "I would like to express my great appreciation to the Department of the Interior for building on the success of the America the Beautiful - National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass for military families and extending the benefit to Gold Star Families and to those who have served in support of our nation, in part, to secure these treasured lands." He added, "Exposure to outdoor recreation can provide a wide range of mental health benefits, and given our nation's ongoing veteran suicide crisis, this is a welcome step forward using a whole of government approach to improve the lives of veterans."
.@USFWS & I proudly support the new Secretarial Order by @SecBernhardt making access to @Interior public lands, including @USFWSRefuges, free for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces & Gold Star families. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our nation’s military heroes! #DOIDelivers https://t.co/cKtl3mEOYd— Aurelia Skipwith (@USFWSDirector) October 28, 2020
Additionally, the department waived park entrance fees for fifth graders and their families who didn't get to use a pass intended for fourth-grade students because of the pandemic as well, reported USA Today.
America’s national parks & public lands inspire millions of young people, especially 4th graders who visit for free through the Every Kid Outdoors Program. In light of this year’s pandemic, this year’s 5th graders will also be able to visit for free and make lifelong memories. pic.twitter.com/szWPQapvYS— Secretary David Bernhardt (@SecBernhardt) October 28, 2020