Jan/Feb 2013 Newsletter


This newsletter is available in PDF format

In this issue:

Sally Jewell Named as Interior Secretary Choice
NPS Gears Up For Cuts
Bridgebuilder Event on Park Funding
Efforts to Enhance Cell and Wifi Service in Parks Underway
ARC Moving Office to 1200 G Street, NW
Partners Outdoors Update
Great Outdoors Month Activities


President Barack Obama will nominate Sally Jewell to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior. She is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), and an active leader of the recreation and conservation communities. She has been a strong supporter of President Obama's America’s Great Outdoors initiative, and worked with former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on efforts to boost funding for our national parks in conjunction with the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service. She is also a major supporter of the Western Governors Association’s Get Out West initiative. The Senate is expected to take up her nomination in time for a March transition of departmental leadership from current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. In a statement regarding the nomination on behalf of the American Recreation Coalition, Derrick Crandall said:

"The recreation community is delighted by the President's nomination of Sally Jewell to lead national conservation and recreation efforts as Secretary of the Interior. Sally is widely respected for her intelligence, her passion and her leadership skills. She has invested heavily with her time as a leader on the America's Great Outdoors initiative, has supported use of the outdoors as a tool for better health and for stronger, sustainable communities. And she has worked actively through REI, through recreation industry organizations and personally to connect younger, more urban and ethnically diverse Americans to our shared legacy of parks, forests, refuges and other outdoor treasures."

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The Office of Management and Budget has directed all non-DOD federal departments to plan for a 5% mandatory spending reduction for the current fiscal year. This is the temporarily avoided "fiscal cliff" of January 1 returning, but tempered from the original mandatory 8.2% cut which would have occurred then. National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis recently sent instructions on how his agency will cut spending. The instructions are contained in four documents, available here:

• Memo from NPS Director Jarvis
• Attachment 1 - Park-by-Park Program and Office Reduction Targets
• Attachment 2 - Instructions for Sequestration Planning
• Attachment 3 - Sequestration Reduction Planning Template

The documents outline priorities for superintendents in planning cuts:
• First, delay permanent hiring
• Next, eliminate nonessential travel and training costs
• Then eliminate seasonal staff not essential to protecting visitor and resource safety (which of course a lot of seasonal staff are) and avoid hiring seasonal staff not essential for this purpose
• Extend furlough periods for staff subject to furlough
• If more cuts are needed, furlough permanent and term employees
• Finally, identify examples such as reductions in visitor services, hours of operations, shortened seasons and possibly closing areas when there are insufficient staff to protect people and assets

Here is a quote from the document: "We expect that a cut of this magnitude, intensified by the lateness of the implementation, will result in reductions to visitor services, hours of operation, shortening of seasons, and possibly the closing of areas during periods when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors, employees, resources, and government assets."

Other federal recreation programs will also be facing mandated cuts – and it is vital that recreation leaders speak up now to minimize reductions in the quality and quantity of recreation experiences at federal sites.

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Support for America's national parks is widespread and unites the nation geographically, politically, demographically and economically. Yet many challenges face the National Park Service today, including a need to reach out to Americans who rarely benefit from park visits, deferred maintenance of infrastructure found in the current array of nearly 400 park units, rare integration of new technologies into park story-telling and more. Despite active support from elected and appointed officials at the national level in both parties, the financial resources of the National Park Service are in decline. Recent efforts to reduce large federal budgetary deficits put current levels of appropriations in jeopardy, even as the agency prepares for its 100th anniversary and exciting new efforts to remain valued and relevant and to continue as a catalyst for strong local and regional economies, especially through domestic and international tourism activity.

On March 19, the Bipartisan Policy Center will join with the National Park Hospitality Association and the National Parks Conservation Association for a free, half-day “Bridgebuilder Session” to identify tools to aid America's national parks in the 21st Century and to prepare well-crafted proposals to the Congress and the Administration for making these tools available. Some of these tools will require new legislative authority – perhaps as part of legislation clarifying goals for the National Park Service in its second century of operation. Others may be achievable through new policies and regulations. Tools range from an earmarked penny in federal motorfuel taxes to revisions in park entrance fees, from increased use of historic tax credits to expanded volunteerism and philanthropy. Many of the tools would also benefit other federal lands.

The session will focus on more than a dozen white papers developed by parks community leaders. A VIP panel of former Members of Congress and Cabinet members, business executives, political gurus and others will discuss these ideas and strategies to add them to the national parks “tool box.” Following the session, the white papers will be revised, reviewed by a group of prominent Americans with business and political experience for efficacy and potential significance to aid America's parks and then delivered to Congress and the Administration for action by June 2013.

To register for the Bridgebuilder session, contact Tom Georgevits at tgeorgevits@funoutdoors.com.

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Verizon and a team involving ViaSat recently brought temporary top-notch internet and cellular telephone service to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park for meetings involving the National Park Service leadership team. The cell and WiFi infrastructure was nearly invisible and prompted NPS Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell to propose an effort to bring enhancements to at least five parks in 2013. National Park Hospitality Association members submitted a list of suggested parks to NPS along with a project overview which included the following goals:

1) Provide a basic level of non-fee internet access at all major, developed visitor areas in the national park system.
2) Provide basic cell phone service at all major visitor areas in national park units, as well as along most roads and at major sites such as trailheads.
3) Deliver timely, park-focused information within national parks through smart phones, tablets and computers.
4) Give individual parks discretion on where cell phone service is available, and whether the service provides full or emergency-only service.
5) Identify and employ best available and practical technologies that minimize visual impacts of cell and internet access systems.
6) Create special gateway zones at park entry points using downloadable data to replace both low-power radio systems and printed material hand-outs.
7) Design a system that is financially sustainable, generating revenues adequate to install, maintain and upgrade internet access. To do this, concessioners are offered the opportunity to develop and operate these systems, either individually or through a collaborative venture with other concessioners.
8) Offer additional bandwidth where possible to park visitors on a fee basis.
9) Coordinate efforts of the NPS, concessioners and friends organizations to create official park apps which can be readily downloaded to all major mobile channels, and which work to aid park visits, even when not connected to the internet, through GPS and other technologies.

NPS Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels and NPS Assistant Director for Communications Sue Waldron, who heads the “Go Digital” component of the NPS A Call to Action, are leading NPS efforts. The list of selected parks is expected this month.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has tried its best to distort this effort. PEER issued a news release on January 31, 2013, proclaiming "PLANS TO WIRE ENTIRE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM: Concessionaires Would Control Visitor Cell and Internet Access and Content." A flurry of media inquiries resulted but after reporters heard the facts, most concluded that there was no scandal – in fact, that this was a non-story. PEER has unintentionally confirmed that enhanced cell and internet access in parks is overdue and will be very popular.

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ARC will move its office on March 22 to Suite 650, 1200 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005. The new office location is right over the subway system’s Metro Center station and will continue to serve as the downtown gathering point for key recreation community coalition meetings and events. Our phone and fax numbers will be unchanged. ARC moved into its current office space 17 years ago. The move will enable ARC to update its technology and reduce its operating expenses. We plan to welcome all ARC members to the new office in conjunction with Great Outdoors Month 2013 – but feel free to drop by before then!

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Partners Outdoors 2013 will be held February 19-21 at the National Conservation Training Center, about 90 minutes outside Washington, DC, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Participants from the private sector, federal agencies, state governments and the non-profit community will focus on three topics: (1) innovative funding for recreation investments and operations, including utilization of conservation corps; (2) serving international visitors to America's Great Outdoors; and (3) integrating recreation and transportation programs within the MAP-21 structure and beyond. The stage will be set for each topic by a keynote presentation, followed by a panel of experts, followed by a Q&A session. Findings and recommendations will be presented by the participants to members of the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation, the heads of federal agencies hosting more than a billion recreation visits annually, via a live video link. For details on the program, click here. Following the sessions, key presentations will be posted online and available for viewing.

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June will be proclaimed Great Outdoors Month again in 2013, highlighting a growing number of recreation community initiatives occurring as summer turns the nation’s attention to our Great Outdoors. This year will be the tenth time a Presidential proclamation will declare June as Great Outdoors Month, adding to a string of Presidential proclamations of Great Outdoors Month and Week dating back to the Clinton Administration. In 2012, every governor proclaimed June as Great Outdoors Month. Plans for National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day), June 8, are going super this year – local partnership efforts are expanding and are helping connect tens of thousands of urban kids to fun outdoors. To keep up with GO Day events – and to get involved – see http://www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org/.

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