Outdoor Recreation in AmericaBrought to you by the American Recreation Coalition
Outdoor Recreation in AmericaBrought to you by the American Recreation Coalition
Dedicated to the protection and enhancement of everyone's right
February 2012 ARC Newsletter
Newsletters Posted on Thu, 03/01/2012 - 14:11.
February 2012 Newsletter
This newsletter is available in PDF format here.
U.S. Representative King Withdraws Floor Amendment to Delete Recreational Trails Program
The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, H.R. 7, would create a new multi-year federal surface transportation program. The legislation was approved by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure with an unchanged continuation of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), at $85 million annually. U.S. Representative Steve King (R-IA) filed a floor amendment to H.R. 7 calling for elimination of RTP as a diversion of highway funds, even though RTP is funded by taxes paid by non-highway recreationists. Mr. King recently notified ARC that he has withdrawn his amendment and credited information provided by trail supporters for prompting him to reassess the amendment. ARC plays a central role in supporting RTP through leadership of the Coalition for Recreational Trails.
President Obama has threatened to veto H.R. 7, The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, prompting Speaker of the House John Boehner to temporarily pull the bill from the floor. The bill would change transportation programs in several ways, including: 1. Reducing federal surface transportation programs from 100+ to about 30 through consolidation and elimination – including repeal of the National Scenic Byways Program. 2. Allowing States more control over their highway funding by granting them more project approval authority and eliminating requirements for funding non-highway activities. 3. Streamlining projects by cutting red tape and setting deadlines for federal assessment of projects. Since the bill was made public in mid-February, byways supporters have written their Members of Congress urging changes to the legislation. For more on H.R. 7, The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act, click here.
S. 1813, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), is on the Senate floor and makes several major changes to SAFETEA-LU, the existing federal surface transportation program which has been extended through March 31, 2012. Among the changes of special concern to recreation interests are MAP-21’s lumping of the Recreational Trails Program, the Safe Routes to School Program, Transportation Enhancements and more into a single category of “allowed” uses of state apportionments. ARC and other trail interests have made clear that this change would be a very hollow victory – that little or no funding would be available for recreational trails under this proposal.
Fortunately, trail interests have a potent group of U.S. Senators who plan to fight for RTP on the floor of the Senate. The bipartisan team, led by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), is working behind the scenes and, if necessary, will lead a floor effort to insert the RTP, unchanged from its current form into the bill. Among the other leaders in this effort are Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). For the Scenic Byways Program, MAP-21 cuts earmarked funding but continues support for 150 existing National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads and would allow additional designations.
The White House Conference on Conservation will meet tomorrow, March 2nd, to discuss the progress of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative launched by President Obama nearly two years ago and strategies for growing America's outdoor heritage and economy. The event will be hosted by: Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior; Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture; Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). Breakout sessions will focus on tourism and recreation, urban open spaces, Let’s Move Outside, and several other pertinent topics. The Administration’s first White House Conference on Conservation met in April 2010 and focused on land conservation and expanding federally administered public land systems.
More information on the Conference can be found here.
In conjunction with the White House Conference, the Interior Department has released an updated assessment of the impact of park spending on national and regional economies. Based upon 2010 visitation and data, the assessment credits visitors to the National Park System with contributing more than $31 billion to local economies and supporting 258,000 jobs, an increase of $689 million and 11,500 jobs over 2009. For national, state-by-state, and park-by-park assessments, click here.
America’s Summit on National Parks was a three-day January 2012 meeting held in Washington, D.C., drawing a remarkable group of nearly 400 National Park Service leaders, concessioners and park supporters from the conservation, tourism, health and education communities. The goals of the Summit were to unify park community efforts and to use the 2016 Centennial of the National Park Service as a catalyst for initiatives addressing such key issues as funding, outreach to a more urban and diverse America, and making parks a part of the nation’s educational and health efforts.
The National Park Foundation, National Park Hospitality Association, and National Parks Conservation Association co-hosted the Summit and are now leading efforts to have hundreds of organizations endorse a Joint Statement of Principles. The Principles include six pillars: Keep America’s Promise to Our Children; Protect and Cherish Our Heritage; Promote Powerful Partnerships; Evolve with a Changing America; Enhancing Our Quality of Life; and Deliver Lasting Memories. To learn more about these principles, and to become an endorser, click here.
We are fortunate that some remarkably talented individuals have been added to the leadership ranks of the agencies charged with protecting and hosting visitors to federal lands which cover nearly a third of the nation’s surface. Among the new leaders – all of whom have a strong history of partnership with recreation interests – are Leslie Weldon, now the Deputy Chief, National Forest System at the Forest Service; Bob Ratcliffe, now the Director of Conservation and Recreation at the National Park Service; and Lena McDowall, now the Associate Director for Business Services at the National Park Service. While not quite as recent in taking on a new post, we also want to pass along our special excitement at the Senate confirmation late last summer of Dan Ashe as the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Click on any of these names for a link to more information about their accomplishments and new roles.
The Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR) was created in June of 2011 as an outcome of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. It includes the directors of federal land management agencies and is tasked with coordinating and expanding recreation opportunities and policies for the one billion+ annual visits to federal recreation sites.
Last month, FICOR members met and agreed to upgrade www.recreation.gov, the official government website for finding recreation opportunities both geographically and by interest. Led in its first year by BLM Director Bob Abbey, FICOR is initially focusing on access to public lands and the role of public lands in tourism. More information on FICOR can be found here.
Great Outdoors Month 2012 efforts will be co-chaired by: Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition; Greg Miller, President of the American Hiking Society; and a key public figure. Beyond requesting that all 50 Governors and President Obama proclaim June as Great Outdoors Month, Great Outdoors Month partners – 50+ public and private sector organizations – will work to get the nation’s top elected officials personally involved in outdoor activities this June. To see copies of the 2011 proclamations, click here.
One showcase activity will be the Western Governors’ Association summer meeting in Cle Elum, Washington, which begins on June 9th – National Get Outdoors Day. Plans call for western governors and their families and inner-city youth from Seattle to participate in outdoor fun. As in past years, there will be thousands of events across the nation during Great Outdoors Month – from National Trails Day ® to National Marina Day to the Great American Backyard Camp-Out – and ARC and the Forest Service anticipate a record number of National GO Day sites. To learn more about GO Day or to nominate a location to host an official GO Day event, please click here.
The U.S. Forest Service has released the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for guiding the development, revision, and amendment of land management plans to the National Forest System. The development of the new Planning Rule was contentious and led to several ARC-arranged meetings with top U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service officials in 2011. More than 300,000 comments were submitted. To read the comments of the recreation community, click here.
The final rule is expected to be issued later this spring and will be put to use immediately guiding new forest plans for eight national forests: Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests in Idaho, Chugach National Forest in Alaska, Cibola National Forest in New Mexico, El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico and Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests in California. Under the new rule, plans will be required to be rewritten or substantially revised every 15 years. While only time will tell if the plans under the new rule will be “recreation-friendly,” the active involvement of the recreation community did result in substantial revisions to the initial Notice of Intent. Recreation is a mandated component of plans, and consultation with recreation interests, including state trails and boating programs, is highlighted as a key part of the planning process. To review the PEIS and related materials, click here.
Forty top tourism experts from across the nation met in Washington, D.C. on February 28th for initial sessions of the Brand USA Marketing and Business Development Advisory Boards. Brand USA, originally created by Congress in 2010 as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, is a Congressionally chartered corporation charged with attracting more international visitors to the U.S. Provided with up to $100 million annually in federal funds and expecting to secure an additional $100 million in private matching support, Brand USA will roll out its strategy and campaign in late April at the International Pow Wow. Along with Disney, Universal, Marriott, Visit Florida, and major airlines, the nation’s recreation interests have an active role in this effort. National parks and scenic byways are specifically identified as one of the pillars of the new effort, and ARC President Derrick Crandall is a member of the Business Development Advisory Board.
For more information on this effort, click here.
Under a new Memorandum of Understanding signed by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, public lands will host a variety of 21st century education programs designed to benefit teachers, students, and parents across the country. Secretary Salazar declared, “This innovative partnership will help schools use our national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands as educational and professional development tools to bring new environmental and historical knowledge to students and develop skills for the next generation of workers in America’s growing outdoor economy.” The agreement will also help the Department of Education support careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), which are necessary to building a strong and well-educated workforce. DOI will offer professional development opportunities for educators to gain more expertise on natural resource issues, specifically educators working in Title I (low-income), rural, and high-need schools.
To view the agreement, click here.