GIFU – The Gifu Prefectural Assembly on Wednesday approved a new environmental tax for buses and taxis that use the Norikura Skyline tollway in the Chubu Mountain National Park, the first such levy tied to any of Japan’s 28 national parks.
Pending approval from the home affairs minister, the tax will take effect in May, when the toll road will reopen after snow removal.
The levies range from 300 yen for taxis to 3,000 yen for large sightseeing buses. Private cars will be banned from the tollway beginning next year.
The Norikura Skyline, operated by a prefectural public road firm, is Japans highest road, located some 2.7 km above sea level at its highest point in the northern Japan Alps. Officials of the Gifu Prefectural Government claim the tax is aimed at protecting local wildlife from an increasing number of visitors.
Experts say the park’s deteriorating environment has led to fewer sightings in recent years of rock ptarmigans, a protected species.
The Gifu Prefectural Government expects to generate 30 million yen a year from the tax. The funds will pay for research on the rock ptarmigan’s habitat and for 50 new patrollers.
Yukitoshi Otsuka, who heads the Gifu chapter of the Wild Bird Society of Japan and is an expert on Mount Norikura’s wildlife, hopes that the environmental tax will allow future generations to enjoy the pristine natural beauty of the 3,026-meter mountain.
Otsuka added, however, that the prefectural government needs to clarify how it intends to use the new tax revenue.