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Our national parks and federally managed recreation areas are special, and so are those who serve -- and have served -- in our Armed Forces. Now it’s going to be easier for veterans and their families to enjoy those public lands and waters.

Beginning today, Veterans Day, as a way to thank military personnel and their families for their service and sacrifice, the National Park Service will permanently waive entrance fees for veterans and Gold Star Families at more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including parks, wildlife refuges, and forests. The program is also intended to encourage them to explore recreational opportunities on public lands and waters.

“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 Veterans Day and every single day thereafter,” Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt said when the program was announced.

Gold Star Families are those who have lost an immediate family member in military service, including wars, terrorist attacks, and international military operations. Active-duty servicemembers and their families are already granted free access to the federal lands under existing department rules. Including veterans and their families, and Gold Star Families, extends the benefit to more than 20 million individuals in recognition of their service and sacrifice.

The 2,000 federal recreation sites encompass more than 400 million acres of public lands, including well-known national parks such as Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Arches, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Many of these federally managed lands have direct connections to the American military, such as frontier forts, Cold War sites, battlefields, national cemeteries, and memorials. These special places pay tribute to our veterans and serve as reminders of their courage and sacrifice throughout the history of our nation.

Veterans, including those who served in the National Guard and Reserve, can claim a free America the Beautiful Pass by presenting a valid Department of Defense Identification Card, Veteran Health Identification Card, Veteran ID card, or a Veteran-designated state ID. Free access is for the veteran or the holder of the Gold Star Family voucher, as well as up to three passengers in a single, personal vehicle. The entrance fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, transportation, special recreation permits, or special tours.

Non-veterans or Gold Star Family members can also purchase the pass, which costs $80. Park officials encourage all visitors to check with local parks administrators before traveling to the sites to ensure safe visits.

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