Gifu panel passes tax for vehicles using national park

Kyodo

A Gifu Prefectural Assembly panel approved a new environmental tax Friday for buses and taxis using the Norikura Skyline toll road in the Chubu Mountains National Park, the first such levy in the nation’s 28 national parks.

Beginning next May, private cars will be banned from the toll road in the park popularly known as the Japan Alps National Park.

The so-called Norikura environmental preservation tax is expected to clear the full assembly in a vote Wednesday.

The Norikura Skyline, a turnpike built at 2.7 km above sea level at its highest point in the northern Japan Alps, is the highest road in Japan.

Gifu officials say the tax is designed to protect the national park’s environment from an increasing flow of private vehicles. The tax — ranging from 300 yen for taxis to 3,000 yen for large sightseeing buses — is to be enforced starting in May, pending approval by the public management ministry.

The prefecture expects to collect 30 million yen a year from the new tax, which officials say is earmarked for research on rock ptarmigan habitats and to pay the salaries of 50 environmental patrol workers it plans to hire.