July August 2013 Newsletter


This newsletter is available in PDF format

In this issue:

Great Outdoors Month 2014
FLREA Extension and Reauthorization Status
Partners Outdoors and Great Outdoors Week to be Combined in 2014
Key Transitions
Bipartisan Agreement at Senate Hearing: Supplemental Park Funding Needed
National Service Movement: New Opportunities for Outdoors Partnerships
NPS Centennial Update


Great Outdoors Month is preparing for a big jump in visibility and importance!

Efforts to focus the nation’s attention on outdoor recreation in June began in the 1980's, led by the American Recreation Coalition. We held briefing sessions and Take Pride volunteer events – featuring VIPs including Presidents and Clint Eastwood. With the addition of the Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award in 1989, Great Outdoors Week was entrenched. The event grew during the Presidencies of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, with regular Presidential recognition established.

The George W. Bush White House invited the American Recreation Coalition to explore a broader, more visible celebration of June and the Great Outdoors, suggesting the issuance of a Great Outdoors Month proclamation that highlighted not just Great Outdoors Week's efforts but other important June events – including National Trails Day®, National Fishing and Boating Week and the Great American Backyard Campout. The first Great Outdoors Month proclamation was issued in 2002 – remarkable, in that Presidential designations of months are regarded as very difficult to achieve. And the string of designations has continued unbroken and has sparked important actions:

1) the nation's governors have joined in the process – and in two of the last three years, all 50 governors have joined in issuing parallel state proclamations of June as Great Outdoors Month. Together, the governors helped generate hundreds of millions of media impressions about the month;
2) important additions have been made to the events marking Great Outdoors Month. National Marina Day was added and has now expanded to Welcome to the Water on National Marina Day, linking the efforts of major water-based associations and government agencies. National Get Outdoors Day was added in 2008 and in 2013 hosted some 150 events designed to help America's urban kids discover healthy outdoor fun.
3) corporate America has begun to understand the excitement of Great Outdoors Month, hosting special events and making special offers;
4) support for Great Outdoors Month from the tourism and health communities has really increased. The largest event of National Get Outdoors Day – in Denver – is now underwritten by a health care business;
5) awareness of the economic significance of recreation in America – more than $650 billion annually – is now incorporated into the President's National Strategy for Travel and Tourism and America's Great Outdoors is a core pillar in the marketing efforts of Brand USA, the new and exciting program underway to increase international visitation to the USA from current levels of 60 million annually to 100 million by 2020.

As 2014 approaches, the national partners supporting Great Outdoors Month plan steps to dramatically increase public awareness of and participation in events occurring during the month, including securing a national media partner interested in helping underscore the multiple values of healthy outdoor fun to the nation and the diversity of locations and activities available – especially on the public lands and waters that constitute one third of the nation. We will also more fully harness the energies of the nation's governors, offering up tailored recommendations for state-specific activities and celebrations that can range from conferences on use of the outdoors to fight obesity and promote economic vitality to tours of in-state "hidden gems," from launches of new outreach campaigns to promotion of volunteerism at state parks and at state-aided trails. Members of Congress and other national leaders will also be invited to join in, perhaps as "Rangers for a Day." A new Great Outdoors Month website is also in development linking Americans to the myriad of opportunities in the Great Outdoors.

Planning for Great Outdoors Month 2014 – and beyond – is open to all. To be part of this exciting opportunity, contact the American Recreation Coalition at 202-682-9530 and plan to be part of a brainstorming and coordination session on September 11. For details, click here.

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Washington seems to agree on something! The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) should not be allowed to expire in December 2014, ending the authority for five federal agencies to retain entrance and recreation fees. And some bipartisan action is occurring to extend or replace the legislation.

Earlier this year, the President called for a one-year extension of the act and subsequent Congressional action to make the fee authority permanent. The House has taken two steps: a June hearing before a subcommittee of the Committee on Natural Resources and inclusion of the one-year extension in the budget for Interior in FY14, now pending before the full Committee on Appropriations. And bipartisan support in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources was clear at a July hearing on NPS funding initiatives.

But the tough discussions are ahead. ARC began championing the idea of retention of collected fees, mostly at the collecting unit, in the late 1980's and led efforts to begin this retention under the Fee Demo Program of the late 1990's. We also called for full transparency in the fee program. But we did not support the creation of REC-RACs – a high-cost and ineffective way to host discussions about fee program implementation and details. We have long stressed the need to include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the program. And we have urged the Congress to pressure the federal agencies hosting recreation on public lands and waters to improve fee program efficiency and convenience.

Additional hearings are expected by the House Natural Resources Committee in late fall and some action to extend FLREA to December 2015 is likely this year – since a failure to act would jeopardize sales of annual passes, including the America the Beautiful Pass, beginning in January 2014. ARC’s June testimony on FLREA is available here. Updated information on FLREA will be available on the ARC website and will be a key part of the September 11 Fall Issues Briefing.

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Partners Outdoors and Great Outdoors Week – previously independent events held in January/February and June respectively – will be integrated into one event in June 2014. The Steering Committee for Partners Outdoors – representatives of ARC and its seven federal agency partners – decided to make this change for many reasons, including meeting restrictions for federal employees. This integration will retain and combine the best of both events: thoughtful discussions of challenges and opportunities facing the recreation community; informal networking of representatives of the recreation community’s public and private sectors; recreation issue briefings; recognition of outstanding achievements benefitting outdoor recreation by individuals and programs; recreation community outreach to Capitol Hill; and the celebration of National GO (Get Outdoors) Day. The Week’s events will also include a service component – volunteer efforts at one or more recreation sites in the National Capital area.

The over-riding theme for the Week will be “Moving Forward Together” and the Week’s events will focus on finding solutions to problems and recognizing problem solvers.

ARC will take the lead in coordinating Great Outdoors Week/Partners Outdoors 2014. However, the Week’s success will be greatly dependent on the input and support of ARC’s federal agency partners, starting with the leadership. Additional partners, including The Corps Network, will help with planning, funding and carrying out this ambitious undertaking.

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Two key regional posts are now open in the National Park Service. John Wessels, until recently NPS Intermountain Regional Director, has left the agency to join the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) as the Director, Overseas Operations, headquartered in Paris, France. John has been supportive of closer coordination between NPS and concessioners and a leader in innovative thinking within NPS, including on financial models that make the agency more able to meet its missions in a sustainable way and led the expansion of cell and WiFi project for NPS. Retiring at the end of the year is the NPS Regional Director for the Northeast Region, Dennis Reidenbach, who played a key role in the post-Sandy recovery operations. Both posts will have acting regional directors in place.

Christie Goldfuss has been selected as the new NPS Deputy Director for Communications and Community Assistance. She replaces Mickey Fearn. She has been at the Center for American Progress as Director of its Public Lands Project. She has been on the staff of the House Committee on Natural Resources, where she focused on policies and legislation affecting the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Earlier in her career, she was a television reporter in California and Nevada covering many stories from communities neighboring public lands. Through telling those stories, she became interested in lands policies. She received a bachelor's degree in political science at Brown University. She can be reached through the Director's office phone – 202-208-3818 – and through Claire_Rozdilski@nps.gov.

Gail Adams has left her position as the U.S. Department of the Interior's Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs for a position in the private sector in Houston. Gail played a key role in development of the President's National Strategy on Travel and Tourism, highlighting the importance of parks and other federal lands and waters in attracting international visitors. She also played a central role in facilitating National Park Service participation in IPW – the International Pow Wow. Replacing her on an acting basis will be Deputy Director Terri Johnson who can be reached at 202-208-7513 or Terri_Johnson@ios.doi.gov.

Robert Bonnie is the new U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, following Senate confirmation this summer. Robert succeeds Harris Sherman and was previously Senior Advisor to the Secretary, playing key roles in America’s Great Outdoors, the development of the Forest Service Planning Rule and reinvention of the Forest Service recreation program. He was with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for 14 years, most recently as Vice President for Land Conservation and Wildlife. He is a leader in the development and expansion of conservation incentives and markets that reward farmers, ranchers and forest owners for land stewardship. A Harvard graduate, Robert holds a master's degree in resource economics and forestry from Duke University. He grew up on a farm in Kentucky. Contact him at 202-720-7173 or through Amanda.Lockwood@usda.gov.

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The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a three-hour session on supplemental funding for America's national parks on July 25, 2013, that was both unusual and encouraging. The hearing took place at the full committee level – unusual when the topic, national parks, is clearly in the jurisdiction of a single subcommittee. Both the Chairman and Ranking Member of the full committee and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the National Parks Subcommittee took part in the hearing. Eleven U.S. Senators participated in the hearing, six Democrats and five Republicans.

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), a major force in the Senate on restraining federal spending, was the lead-off witness. The interaction among the committee members was friendly and overwhelmingly supportive of actions to attack the deferred maintenance backlog in parks and develop a more fiscally sustainable national park program in conjunction with the NPS Centennial. Senator Coburn has vigorously challenged new additions to the national park system as counter-productive to adequately caring for existing park units. Committee Chairman Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) made it clear that he supported continued additions of special areas but shared Senator Coburn's concerns about the $12 billion backlog of maintenance, about $7.5 billion of which is described by the NPS as critical.

Senator Coburn cited studies showing that deferring maintenance increased ultimate costs by five times. This year, NPS reports that at least $300 million in preventive maintenance will not be done – creating the potential for an additional $1.5 billion in ultimate costs.

Jobs linked to parks and outdoor recreation were referenced and championed by more than half of the Senators – in a very bipartisan fashion. There were frequent and positive references to the role of concessioners today and in the continuing success of national parks post-2016 by NPS Director Jon Jarvis and Senators. The lead-off public witness was Gerry Gabrys of Guest Services Inc., appearing on behalf of the National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA). NPHA led efforts to create a document with 16 white papers for sustainable, supplemental funding for America’s national parks in March 2013, including changes in fee programs, expansion of visitor services and a new Penny for Parks program. To read and download the document, click here. The Ranking Member of the committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), specifically singled out Gerry and NPHA for helpful, specific funding suggestions, including increasing services to park visitors and extending the length of concessions contracts. To watch the full hearing, click here.

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One of the most significant boosts to our Great Outdoors came through the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression era in the 1930's. Key American leaders including former Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne have now become champions for replicating that program, seeking to provide a million youths an opportunity for non-military national service each year.

During the Depression, tens of thousands of young men – mostly from our cities – left home for extended assignments in the Great Outdoors. They built buildings and trails and bridges and more. Today's visitors to national parks – and many other public places – still enjoy the excellent work done by the CCC crews. And the legacy of CCC efforts is not just about buildings. The lives of the crew members were changed. They became lovers of our parks. And they passed along this love of parks and the Great Outdoors to their families. In fact, one of the CCC crew members was the father of current National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis.

Widespread unemployment among youth in the early 21st Century has helped spark a growth in conservation corps performing "fee for service" projects on public lands. Conservation corps have also taken on roles of helping young veterans re-enter civilian life and of helping troubled teens onto paths toward sound citizenship. An estimated 20,000 youths each year are now involved in projects involving federal and state lands. But public funding alone will not allow the program to meet a goal of offering spots for at least 100,000 youths annually.

The new effort is being led by Retired General Stan McChrystal under the Franklin Project of the Aspen Institute. The corps of national leaders involved is diverse and potent, including Barbara Bush, Tom Brokaw and Harris Wofford. The effort was recently showcased at a White House event featuring President Barack Obama and former President George H.W. Bush as the 5,000th “Points of Light” was announced.

ARC was recently invited to a top-level briefing and brainstorming session hosted by Dirk Kempthorne and asked to develop ideas for use of conservation corps members in parks, perhaps paralleling use of J1 visa workers. We were able to share with senior White House and other leaders efforts already underway to use conservation corps youth on historic preservation efforts in Shenandoah National Park under a partnership linking Delaware North Companies, the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and The Corps Network, the national association for conservation corps. One key note: corps participants are not restricted to just outdoor, physical projects – they can take on websites and interpretation and more. This effort offers an opportunity for agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations alike to become involved. For information, contact Derrick Crandall at dcrandall@funoutdoors.com.

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The Centennial of the National Park Service is less than three years away – August 25, 2016 – and exciting efforts are underway to make that occasion far more than simply a celebration. The agency has received more than 300 unsolicited proposals for programs, events and projects linked to the Centennial and is now officially soliciting suggestions from corporations, nonprofits, and other governmental agencies. A select number of proposals will be chosen as national activities, most with an ongoing role in helping the agency achieve its Second Century goals. Proposals for Centennial efforts should be submitted by October 20, 2013. See www.NextCenturyforParks.org for details on submission guidelines. Ideas will be reviewed by NPS and National Park Foundation staff. In addition to national efforts, many park units are gearing up for the Centennial with specialized programs and projects. Typically, the local efforts are being developed by the local friends group and the park superintendent – and recreation community involvement is welcomed.

Among the most important efforts underway is the development of a Centennial Campaign, envisioned as multi-year with very significant resources. Grey, a major advertising and communications firm, has been contracted to lead the campaign development. Initial funding has been provided by the National Park Foundation, but additional funding sources are anticipated for the campaign. Grey has conducted qualitative and quantitative research and will roll out the campaign strategy and creative in the fall of 2013. The campaign is very likely to have two components: continuation and activation of current park visitors and supporters and outreach to more urban, younger and more diverse Americans, especially families meeting these characteristics.

Advice on selecting Centennial efforts and the Grey campaign is being solicited by the NPS through a 31-member Centennial Advisory Committee, formed under the National Park System Advisory Board. The committee is chaired by Gretchen Long of Wilson, Wyoming, and includes top leadership of such partner organizations as the National Park Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, National Parks Friends Alliance and National Park Hospitality Association. Meetings of the full committee and its executive group are occurring frequently. For details, contact Derrick Crandall, who serves on the committee and its executive group at dcrandall@funoutdoors.com.

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