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West Yellowstone business owners react to fee increase report

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WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. - A new report from the University of Montana and the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research states businesses surrounding Yellowstone National Park could suffer from proposed entrance fee increases to national parks.

The report projects a $3.4 million annual loss in community spending due to a predicted decline in visitation, should the fee hike get approved.? It says the fee increase would also impact those who visit the park. Researchers expect to see a decline in local visitors, rather than those visiting from across the country or from other countries. It's cause for concern for West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce president Marysue Costello. "Our international visitors will still be coming because it represents a much smaller portion of their expenses than it does to a domestic traveler," Costello said. "We are more concerned, actually, with our nearby neighbors."? NBC Montana spoke with several business owners who fear the fee increase will lead to a decline in visitors and a hit on business. Melissa Alder, co-owner of recreation store Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, said she is not concerned. "People aren't coming to West Yellowstone in the summer time to recreate as much, as more as just to travel through the park and take pictures of the park," Alder said. "So our numbers don't necessarily increase at the same rate as the visitation numbers increase." Public comment on the proposed fee increase is open until Dec. 22. To leave a comment, click here.?

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