Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 9, 20177min3580

Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican father of our national parks, said it in 1906.

“The lack of power to take joy in outdoor nature is as real a misfortune as the lack of power to take joy in books,” the old Rough Rider said.

That’s why you find Teddy Roosevelt, and not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, creator of the New Deal, on Mount Rushmore, alongside Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson.

We don’t view our national parks as handouts to be cut on the whims of Washington gamesmanship. We view them as treasures.

And now the Trump administration plans to make sure we pay a king’s ransom to use them. And it feels like just that, ransom.

The National Parks Service is ready to hike the cost — dramatically — for everyday people to visit what they already own during peak tourism seasons at 17 of the country’s most popular parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park.

It would soon cost $70 a car to take my out-of-state friends from Estes Park to Grand Lake, instead of the 20 bucks I’m used to paying. Motorcycle riders will pay $50 and bicyclists and hikers will pay $30 to get in.

The other parks are Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Zion in Utah; Yellowstone and Grand Teton in Wyoming; the Grand Canyon in Arizona; Denali in Alaska; Glacier in Montana; Acadia in Maine; Olympic and Mount Rainier in Washington; Shenandoah in Virginia; and Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Joshua Tree in California.

The park service needs the money for a $12 billion backlog in repairs and improvements, because Congress and presidents won’t do their jobs and make sure parks are available and affordable to anyone who can get there, the idea Roosevelt had in his head and heart.

Poorly funding parks and public lands, however, has manufactured a shameful crisis. The sticker shock of a 250 percent increase in admission is the latest ploy to open up the lands to more drilling, foresting, hunting and off-roading for pay.

“We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said when he announced the price hike last week.​

That sounds similar, but not quite as complete as what he said at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver in July.

“Our great lands, our treasures, belong to us,” Zinke said.

But that was only part of his message in Colorado.

“I can tell ya, the war on American energy is over,” the former Montana congressman said.

But what Zinke didn’t say is that the administration will have a fight on its hands to bring more development to public lands, sacrificing a mantle conservationists can rally around — and win.

Scott Braden, public lands advocate for the Conservation Colorado, said “undoubtedly” the parks need more revenue and the maintenance backlog is real.

“Any economist would tell you that if you have too much demand, you should probably increase the price of the supply,” Braden told me.

“However, my concerns are twofold. One, is that the Trump budget and indeed appropriations over the last however many years of sequestration have further strained the ability of the NPS to carry out its mission. Shifting that cost burden to just the users of the parks is misguided, because national parks should be a national funding priority. Second, by increasing the costs of visiting parks, we make it harder to get kids outdoors, especially kids from poorer families and undeserved communities. This hurts our chances to educate and build the next generation of Americans who will care about parks and public lands.”

Zinke said the year before President Obama took office, the department made about $18 billion a year from offshore drilling, but the figure had fallen to just $2.6 billion last year.

He said the decline was an example of the “consequence of locking and shutting American energy, access and recreation off of our lands.”

Industry pays or you pay, get the picture?

Communities at the gates, such as Estes Park and Grand Lake, will certainly get it if tourism pays a price.

In 2015, more than 305 million people visited national parks, which was an all-time record. Visitors spent $16.9 billion in nearby communities.

Somebody always pays.

Politicians in both parties have no problem picking winners and losers, as long as their side wins.

The night before he visited Rocky Mountain National Park, Zinke said it disturbed him that people don’t trust the government anymore — “how far we’ve come from the government I grew up in; the government of Reagan, when the president would say something you knew it was true when our government was on our side.”

The public comment period on the fee hikes is open until Nov. 23. You can comment online at the National Park Service’s planning website or by mailing a letter to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop 2346, Washington, D.C. 20240.


Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandOctober 1, 20178min300
The question of whether someone can file an ethics complaint with a home rule city or county and the state’s Independent Ethics Commission at the same time will wait another day for an answer. On Thursday the ethics commission dismissed a complaint against a former Glendale city councilman because the commission’s official views on home […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 31, 20177min193
I got to know four of our Republican gubernatorial candidates in front of a few thousand of their friends at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver recently. The Centennial Institute, which puts on what amounts to spring break for conservatives outside the D.C. Beltway, asked me to chat up Victor Mitchell, Steve Barlock, Doug Robinson and […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 23, 20177min1680

With some of the top Republicans in the nation in the Mile High City this week for the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Western Conservative Summit, news moved swiftly as D.C. came to Denver.

Here are the stories that Colorado Politics’ staff thinks had the biggest impact. Agree? Disagree? Comment below.


This Wednesday, July 27, 2016, photo, a biker rides along a trail in Salt Lake City. More than 100 million acres of America's most rugged landscapes designated as wilderness are off-limits to mountain bikers, but two U.S. Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, both Utah Republicans, have introduced legislation that would allow bikers to join hikers and horseback riders in those scenic, undisturbed areas. The proposal is controversial within the biking community and opposed by conservationists who say bikes would erode trails and upset the five-decade notion of wilderness as primitive spaces. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
This Wednesday, July 27, 2016, photo, a biker rides along a trail in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

5. Republican pedaling, uh, peddling a tax hike

Republican Ray Scott of Grand Junction proposes a tax hike Democrats don’t seem to like: taxing adult bicycles that use the roads the same as heavily taxed cars and trucks. Oregon recently passed a tax on bikes, but it was a Democratic governor’s plan, with Republicans howling about another new tax. Can it pass here?

Read the full story here.


Students at Cole Arts & Science Academy, a north Denver innovation school that is among Denver Public Schools’ school-choice offerings. (Photo courtesy of

4. School choice is working in Colorado, says GOP leaders

Democratic-led protesters rallied against the visit of Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in Denver this week for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual meeting, but it was home-grown Republicans such as Treasurer Walker Stapleton and state Rep. Owen Hill who made the best case for more options in education. “Welcome to Denver, Colo., living proof that charter schools work,” Stapleton said.

Read the full story here.


Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow
Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer for President Trump, talks to reporters Saturday night after his speech at the Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

3. Collusion? It’s whatever Donald Trump didn’t do, says his lawyer

Colorado Politics got one shot at asking the president’s personal lawyer to define collusion Saturday night at the Western Conservative Summit. Rather than the dictionary definition, “a secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy,” Jay Sekulow reached for a law book. We reported how one of the nation’s top attorneys for religious liberty tackled the word in relation to the Trump campaign’s dealings with the Russians.

Read the full story here.


Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (BLM Photo)
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (BLM Photo)

2. Canyon of the Ancients gets a new lease on life

Attention, people who love the national monument near Cortez: The rich archaeological and environmental treasure Canyons of the Ancients is safe from being taken off the federal register for protections. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, in Colorado at the end of the week, said this week that it won’t modified by President Trump. “Canyons of the Ancients is gorgeous land,” he said.

Read the full story here.


iStock image / Kagenmi

1. House salad: Former party boss says no green for GOP senators 

Former state Republican Party Chairman Steve House has a way to inspire Republican lawmakers to repeal and replace Obamacare that could take a bite out of the resistance. He said people should withhold donations to re-elect GOP senators until they do the job most Republicans elected them to do on healthcare. Granted, it was only a small handful of Republicans in the narrowly divided Senate, but everybody would help pay the campaign tab.

Read the full story here.