Active U.S. servicemen and women and their families will receive a new perk come Saturday: free passes to more than 2,000 public lands nationwide. The Department of the Interior and the Joining Forces initiative announced Tuesday that passes would be available starting on Armed Forces Day on Saturday.
"Just 1% of Americans are fighting our wars, but we need 100% to support our troops and their families," Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said in a news conference Monday. Salazar and others are scheduled to appear Tuesday at the Yorktown Victory Monument in Virginia and begin giving out passes.
The America the Beautiful pass, also known as the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, is good for 12 months and usually costs $80 each. Members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard (as well as reserves) may pick up the free pass at national parklands that sell them.
Yosemite National Park will be issuing passes at park entrances starting Saturday. The pass is good for entrance to national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and grasslands and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.
During the news conference, Salazar noted the "strong ties" between national parks and the military. He noted that in 1872 the U.S. Army protected the first national park, Yellowstone, until park rangers were in place.