Old Folks Buy Your Passes..Now!


This is a public service announcement via Kitty Benzar (caveat, I did not check on this, I’m assuming she’s correct here).


On Tuesday December 6, in the lame duck session of Congress, the House passed by unanimous consent a bill (HR 4680) that will eliminate the $10 lifetime Senior Pass (formerly Golden Age Pass) which has been available to citizens and permanent residents age 62 and older since 1965.

In the early hours of Saturday morning December 10, in a nearly empty Senate chamber – most members having already left for the holidays – the Senate approved the House bill by unanimous consent

The bill is now on its way to the President. He is nearly certain to sign it.

The lifetime pass will track with the price of the annual America the Beautiful Pass. That price is currently $80 but can be changed at any time by the federal land management agencies, without further legislation.

For those who prefer an installment plan, a new “Senior Annual” pass will also be established at a price of $20, good for one year from the date of purchase. Four consecutive Senior Annual passes can be exchanged for a lifetime pass.

While there have been a multitude of bills introduced (and programs authorized) aimed at giving new groups free or reduced-cost access to the public lands – 4th Graders, military families, those with disabilities, veterans, volunteers – it is difficult to understand why Congress has taken this opportunity to reduce a long-standing benefit to seniors. The $20-$35 million in anticipated additional revenue (depending on whose estimate you choose) will make little dent in the Park Service’s claimed maintenance backlog of $12 BILLION.

All of this is being done in the guise of celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service, although why making the Parks more expensive to visit constitutes a “celebration” remains a mystery.

The benefits of the Senior Pass include entrance to all National Parks and Wildlife Refuges that charge entrance fees, for the passholder and everyone accompanying them in the same vehicle. Where an NPS unit or a Refuge charges a per-person fee, the passholder can bring in three companions age 16 or older. (Those under age 16 are free anyway.) The Senior Pass also covers Standard Amenity Fees at most Forest Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineers sites. In addition, Senior passholders are entitled to a 50% discount on campground fees for the site they occupy, including any younger friends and family members who accompany them.

These benefits are grandfathered- (and grandmothered-) in for existing passholders. So if you have attained the age of 62 and have not yet purchased your lifetime Senior Pass, you should do it IMMEDIATELY. Passes are sold at National Parks, Forest Service, BLM and Bureau of Reclamation offices, National Wildlife Refuges, and Army Corps of Engineers recreation sites. Passes can be purchased online at the USGS Store, but online purchases will incur a $10 service charge in addition to the (for now) $10 price of the pass. Your pass is good for the rest of your life unless lost or stolen. Many people buy an extra to keep in a safe place. Doing so at this time is something to consider because buying a replacement in the future could cost you much more.

It will likely take some time for the agencies to update their pass sales locations with the new pricing structure, so if you are close to turning 62 you should act as soon as you are eligible and you may be able to slide in under the wire.

5 thoughts on “Old Folks Buy Your Passes..Now!”

  1. I wonder if Government is conspiring against seniors? I live in British Columbia on a fixed income derived from a lifetime of paying taxes but the rising ferry fares, carbon tax, hydro rates, insurance rates and currency exchange all work to keep me home.
    Just what I like to hear, one of the few benefits of being a citizen of the US is getting further from my reach. I guess Congress should be congratulated for working to reduce congestion in our National Parks!

  2. More and more the U.S. is becoming the province of the 1 percent! There are lots of rich folks in the Congress – a decision like this has no impact on their lives and just look at the super rich cabinet picks that Trump is making. Certainly they’ll have the “commoners” in mind when making policy. Ha! If you believe that I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
    Public lands should remain accessible at low cost because they enrich the mental and physical health of Americans.

  3. It costs big money to provide for all of the services provided. Who better to pay the excess over tax supported costs than those who use the resources the most. $20/year is ridiculously low and $80 for a lifetime pass is a fantastic deal. The nearest state park is 5 miles from my home and I used to get a $49 annual pass when I expected to use it significantly for my photography. It’s a good investment.

    Nothing worth having is free not even clean air or water is free.

  4. She’s right–the bill is on the President’s desk. This do-nothing congress has managed to do this, at least. They continue to pass short-term extensions of the underlying FLREA, but for some reason, this is the one piece of legislation they could pass to honor the Park Service Centennial. I’m with Gil, though, even at $80 for a lifetime, it is still a bargain, and does help to pay for maintenance. The bill is silent on what the USFS is to do with the funds, so I gather it goes in with the other retained fees. Recreation fees are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly necessary as fire overtakes budgets. They were a lifesaver for many districts, but they have to be spent wisely and with accountability. I just wish I’d been able to get a Golden Age before the price went up! On the other hand, I am younger than 62…

  5. Yes, I thought it was a great deal. Almost to good to be true. I love the way us baby-boomers get everything. We got one last summer and then went to Crater lake. We already got our money back with that one trip. I like having something to hang from my mirror that gives me a free pass to so many places. I would think twice about paying $80.00 but not because it isn’t worth it, it a great deal even at that.
    Now if they would only sell some more timber we could really help them pay for things.


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