An annual pass granting free access to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and other public lands is now available to the nationâ€™s service members and their families. The pass is part of the Joining Forces initiative.
Beginning on Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 19, active duty servicemen and servicewomen â€” Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and activated National Guard and Reserves â€” can obtain the new military version of the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass. The pass will be accepted at National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.
â€œFirst Lady Michelle Obama and I started the Joining Forces initiative last year as a way to honor, recognize and support our veterans and military families,â€ said Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. â€œThis effort is a wonderful way to give something back, giving our military men and women and their families a chance to reconnect with their loved ones, experience the beauty of this country, and simply have a little fun.â€
The initiative was announced May 15 during a ceremony at Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown, Va., where Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Director of the National Park Service Jonathan Jarvis and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy distributed the first passes to one member from each of the militaryâ€™s five branches.
â€œOur nation owes a debt of gratitude to our servicemen and women who make great sacrifices and put their lives on the lines to protect our country and preserve our freedom,â€ Salazar said. â€œIn recognition of their contributions and service, we are putting out a welcome mat for these brave men and women and their families at Americaâ€™s most beautiful and storied sites.â€
Military members and their dependents can pick up a pass at any national park or wildlife refuge that charges an entrance fee or other selected sites. Members must show a current, valid military identification card to obtain their pass. The pass is also available to dependents of active duty personnel.
Where there are entrance fees, the pass covers the owner and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle at recreation sites that charge per vehicle. At sites where per-person entrance fees are charged, it covers the pass owner and three accompanying adults age 16 and older. There is no entry fee for children 15 and under.
While the pass is not available to veterans and retirees, many of these individuals are eligible for other discounted passes, such as the Senior Pass, granting lifetime access to U.S. citizens over 62 for $10, and the Access Pass granting free lifetime access for permanently disabled U.S. citizens.
For more information on the pass, visit: http://store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html.