Long-time Kempthorne Aide Gary L. Smith Addresses July Recreation Exchange

Gary L. Smith, newly-appointed Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of the Interior, brought a strong message of cooperation and consultation with recreation interests to July’s Recreation Exchange. Mr. Smith, who has worked with Secretary Kempthorne at the local, state and national levels for 19 years, emphasized the Secretary’s deep interest and commitment to recreation on public lands - values shared by his staff. He characterized the Secretary’s style as deliberative, bringing sometimes-disparate groups together for inclusive, collaborative problem-solving - a style which has succeeded in the past to resolve environmental conflict.

Mr. Smith noted that there are many issues in the pipeline inherited by Mr. Kempthorne and referred to the recent announcement of the NPS Management Policies as a process Secretary Kempthorne would have managed differently. He said the policies are more balanced than have been portrayed, noting that the media misinterpreted the Secretary’s statement that where there is conflict and impairment, conservation will prevail to mean that recreational use will always be secondary to preservation. To view the policies issued on June 19, click here.

Mr. Smith told the group of 40 recreation leaders that “you have a strong group, you know public policy, call me and develop a personal relationship.” He said he would be reaching out directly to individuals on specific issues and pledged to communicate earlier on recreation issues. He noted that he has input into the Secretary’s schedule and welcomes assistance in getting the Secretary’s message out “where we agree” to recreation interests through publications and appearances. “Use me as your conduit for scheduling,” he said. He confirmed that the “Friday Forum” at the Department of the Interior will be re-instated in the near future to further improve communication.

Taking questions from the audience, Mr. Smith assured the group that consistency of interpretation of the NPS management policies will be emphasized to reduce uncertainty across the board. He further noted that funding coordination among federal land management agencies through the OMB budget process is a high priority to reduce duplication and waste of limited appropriated funds. He also agreed with an audience concern that visitor and business license fees can impact access negatively.

Asked about Secretary Kempthorne’s priorities for his tenure at Interior, Mr. Smith said that “a significant initiative,” announcing his legislative and other priorities will come in the next 10-14 days. He noted that the Secretary has strongly supported funding the state-side portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, repeatedly threatened with elimination in recent years, during his roles as mayor of Boise, Governor of Idaho and in the Senate.

Following Mr. Smith’s departure, Gloria Manning, Associate Deputy Chief for the National Forest System, spoke briefly about Forest Service Chief Bosworth’s commitment to a “Quantum Leap” for the Forest Service recreation program as a legacy to the American people. She invited recreation community to contribute fresh ideas for “things we can do together” and she asked the recreation community to offer specific priorities for recreation facility improvements based on their experience and knowledge of visitor needs. A draft plan for action for the “Quantum Leap” will be delivered to the Chief Bosworth in the fall.

If you would like to contact Mr. Smith, he can be reached as follows:

Gary L. Smith
Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs
U.S. Department of the Interior
1949 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
202-208-1923 FAX: 202-208-1821

Recreation Exchanges are held ten times annually and are made possible by the following sponsors:

American Association for Nude Recreation
American Horse Council
American Motorcyclist Association
Association of Marina Industries
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Reclamation
Kampgrounds of America
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
National Park Service
National Recreation and Park Association
Personal Watercraft Industry Association
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association
USDA Forest Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service