April 2013 Newsletter


This newsletter is available in PDF format

In this issue:

America’s New U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell
Great Outdoors Month 2013
National and Local Groups Champion Recreational Trails Program
Federal Fees Update
Bipartisan Policy Center Holds Bridgebuilder Session on Funding National Parks
USFS Selects New Recreation Chief


The nation has a new chief champion of the Great Outdoors – Sally Jewell, the 51st person to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. She was easily confirmed by the U.S. Senate and succeeds Ken Salazar, who led the department for more than four years and has now returned home to Colorado, which he has also served as a top state official and as a U.S. Senator.

Prior to her confirmation, Jewell served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI). Jewell joined REI as Chief Operating Officer in 2000 and was named CEO in 2005. During her tenure, REI nearly tripled in business to $2 billion. Jewell has worked to ensure that public lands are accessible and relevant to all people from all backgrounds, and to build a connection between the great outdoors and a new generation of Americans. She was active in the America’s Great Outdoors effort and served on the National Parks Second Century Commission.

Before joining REI, Jewell spent 19 years as a commercial banker, first as an energy and natural resources expert and later working with a diverse array of businesses that drive our nation’s economy. Trained as a petroleum engineer, Jewell started her career with Mobil Oil Corp. in the oil and gas fields of Oklahoma and the exploration and production office in Denver, Colorado where she was exposed to the remarkable diversity of our nation’s oil and gas resources.

An avid outdoorswoman, Jewell finds time for skiing, kayaking, hiking, climbing and other activities.

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June will once again be Great Outdoors Month with proclamations, events, awards and celebrations. Great Outdoors Month highlights the benefits of outdoor activity – including annual economic impact of more than $650 billion – and showcases the splendor of our shared natural resources, including forests, parks, refuges, and other public lands and waters. June opens the active summer vacation and recreation season and also hosts significant events engaging the public in outdoor recreation including: National Trails Day®, National Fishing and Boating Week, Welcome to the Water on National Marina Day, the Great American Backyard Campout, and volunteer events under Take Pride in America®. Great Outdoors Month helped launch the tremendously successful National Get Outdoors Day partnership, which will host events for a sixth year at sites across America on Saturday, June 8. Great Outdoors Week (June 1-9) will be celebrated in Washington, D.C., with a variety of events and award presentations, including the Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award.

The Great Outdoors enjoys new appreciation for its role in a sustainable economy and for helping the U.S. regain an appropriate share of the international tourism market – where success will mean hundreds of thousands of new jobs. We also have better evidence that active fun outdoors can be a potent tool in controlling healthcare costs, combating obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more. Encouraging more time in the outdoors is also becoming an important educational strategy.

Proclamations are expected by the President and all 50 governors and will be available for viewing and downloading at http://www.funoutdoors.com/node/view/2934. For more information on Great Outdoors Month, contact Tom Georgevits at tgeorgevits@funoutdoors.com.

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When Congress enacted MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) in mid-2012, trails advocates achieved a remarkable success. The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) survived a trim of nearly 75% of federal surface transportation programs and was continued with guaranteed funding. Credit for the success belongs to the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT), comprised of virtually all major national trails organizations, representing both motorized and non-motorized trail activities. CRT ensured that the Congress understood, first, that RTP is a user-pay / user-benefit program, deriving its funding from a portion of the Federal gas taxes paid by off-highway recreation vehicle owners, and second, that RTP has more than two decades of proven success in unifying trail interests and leveraging funding to aid national and local health, economies and conservation efforts.

The two major changes made under MAP-21 to RTP seemed tolerable initially. RTP gained a unique guarantee of funding at its pre-MAP-21 funding level of $85 million annually, and its unique apportionment and eligibility provisions were continued. But RTP was placed in a category of programs called Transportation Alternatives (TA), which is subject to an overall cap applying to a suite of important programs. The cap reflects a significant overall reduction in the funding these programs previously received. The second change was that governors were allowed to opt out of the RTP program, a reflection of bipartisan support for giving states greater say over the use of apportioned funds. Both changes now pose serious threats. In FY2013, two states did opt out of the program, although both promised to continue to support recreational trails using other transportation funds. And we discovered that the guaranteed funding for RTP within the TA category has unfortunate, unintended consequences for other programs like Safe Routes to School, because in a number of states RTP funding is a significant portion of total TA funds available and is crowding out programs that many CRT members also support. MAP-21 expires on September 30, 2014, and CRT members are working nationally and locally to deal with adverse short-term consequences and build support for corrections when MAP-21 is extended or replaced next year. Especially vigorous activities are underway in California. For more information on CRT efforts, contact Cathy Ahern at cahern@funoutdoors.com.

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Recreation fees are an important source of funding for federal agencies – a big change since the enactment of Fee Demo in 1996. Fees now total some $300 million each year – entrance fees, campground fees, daily use fees and more, with almost $200 million associated with the National Park Service. Five federal agencies are covered under the authority of the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004 (FLREA) – but not the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In general, the fee program is regarded as a success although it has some controversies associated with specific fee sites.

Federal agencies have worked government-wide on several fee initiatives including fee-free days and a new free pass for those on active duty in the military. In its first year, 130,000 free annual passes were given to qualifying active duty military. There was concern that this new free pass would reduce overall fee revenue. However, NPS reports that its total fee revenue of more than $195 million in 2012 was up 4% from 2011.

FLREA fee authority sunsets in December 2014. The Administration proposed a one-year extension of FLREA as part of its FY 2014 budget proposal and then separate action by the Congress to enact long-term fee authority. Recreation interests have been discussing needed changes, including during conversations at the 2012 and 2013 Partners Outdoors sessions and in a white paper prepared for a meeting in March 2013 at the Bipartisan Policy Center (see http://parkpartners.org/fundingparksfees.html). You are invited to review the paper and the options it raises and to then submit comments and additional ideas to be incorporated into the revised version of this paper. Comments should go by May 1 to parksnext100years@gmail.com and the lead author of the paper, Destry Jarvis, at destryjarvis2@me.com.

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A national dialogue about supplementary funding strategies for national parks was held at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in Washington, D.C., on March 19. The event brought together political leaders and park advocates to identify sustainable, supplementary funding sources that can capitalize on bipartisan support for America's national parks. The session was co-hosted by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA), which had also joined to co-host the first-ever America’s Summit on National Parks in early 2012.

Speakers at the session included Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), former Secretary of the Interior and Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, former U.S. Representatives Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Jim Oberstar (D-MN), and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. Prominent pollsters Geoff Garin and Whit Ayres, co-directors of a 2012 national survey on voter attitudes toward park and Great Outdoors issues, added valuable insights into ways to use remarkable public support for parks to join diverse Members of Congress on initiatives supporting parks.

At the heart of the session was a compendium of 16 white papers offering potential new and non-appropriated funding, from revised fee programs to a dedicated Penny for Parks in federal motorfuel tax to new efforts to increase philanthropic support for parks. A copy of the publication can be downloaded at http://parkpartners.org/fundingparks.html. Comments on the white papers and submission of additional funding ideas are encouraged and should be submitted by May 1 to parksnext100years@gmail.com.

"We need to both challenge and empower the agencies caring for America's national parks and other special places to develop sustainable plans to supplement traditional appropriations of general tax revenues. There are ways to sustain a strong system of national parks not only for the next few years but long into the future – and that is what we should be doing as the National Park Service turns 100 in 2016 and embarks on efforts to stay relevant and cherished for another 100 years," said Derrick A. Crandall, ARC President.

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A familiar and dynamic individual will be assuming the role of the Forest Service’s National Director of Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources in May: Joe Meade! Joe was a key part of the national Forest Service recreation team in the late 1980's and 1990's before heading west to take on key regional posts and then service as the Forest Supervisor for the Chugach National Forest in Alaska. Some of us became convinced that he used pixie dust and other magical tricks as he advanced recreation programs, outreach to youth and signature efforts with the travel and tourism community. “Joe has more vision than virtually any person with the gift of sight, and more energy than a teenager. He is going to leave his mark on national forest recreation,” according to ARC President Derrick Crandall, who adds that he has known and admired Joe for 25 years.

The selection of Joe, who now serves as the National Director of Partnerships for the Forest Service, came after rigorous interviews by FS leaders including Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon and USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman, signifying the importance placed on this post by the agency. His candidacy for the position was endorsed by the National Forest Recreation Association, ARC and other key groups. Among the many priority issues facing Joe are: (1) improvements in the national forest fee program; (2) expansion of partnerships in providing forest visitors with needed recreation infrastructure – including major makeovers of campgrounds and other sites; (3) outreach to youth and Americans who are not now regular visitors to forests. Joe can be congratulated and reached at jmeade@fs.fed.us.

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