November 2013 Newsletter


This newsletter is available in PDF format

In this issue:

Planning Continues for an Exciting Partners Outdoors/Great Outdoors Week 2014
Secretary Sally Jewell Lays Out Vision for DOI Future
National Service Partnership Initiative Moves Forward
ARC Fall Issues Briefing Addresses Key Topics
ARC Hosts Strategy Session
FLREA Extended for One Year
Reflections on the Federal Government Shutdown - and More
People in the News


The Steering Committee for the combined Partners Outdoors and Great Outdoors Week, which will be held June 7-14, 2014, has made great progress in putting together a compelling program. Partners Outdoors will be held during a three-day period – June 9-11 – and will feature a different focus for discussion each day. The three selected topics are: Funding Recreation in the Great Outdoors Sustainably; Hosting All Americans in Their Great Outdoors; and Working Effectively as Partners Outdoors. Each day will start with a keynote speaker, followed by panel presentations exploring the topic of the day in more depth, and then brainstorming sessions over lunch. Those luncheon discussions will culminate in the development of topic-related policy recommendations for consideration by the recreation-related federal agencies and their private-sector partners. The afternoons and evenings will feature special Great Outdoors Week events, including the perennial favorite ice cream social kick off as well as presentation of ARC’s annual Beacon and Legends Awards to outstanding federal-partner agency individuals and programs that have significantly enhanced outdoor recreation experiences and resources.

Other Great Outdoors Week events will include: a Capitol Hill briefing on the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) and presentation of RTP Achievement Awards by the Coalition for Recreational Trails; a Recreation Exchange featuring a prominent national official; an Issues Briefing on key recreation topics; presentation of the prestigious Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award to a winner selected by recreation community leaders; and a “Day of Service to the Great Outdoors,” sponsored by The Corps Network. In addition, Great Outdoors Week will be book-ended by two major nationwide celebrations: The American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® on Saturday, June 7th and National GO (Get Outdoors) Day on Saturday, June 14th.

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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell delivered a major speech on October 31, 2013, outlining her vision for the future of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Her remarks focused on initiatives related to conservation, balanced development of public land resources, and strengthened connections between young people and the nation’s public lands.

She opened her remarks by addressing the shutdown of the federal government, which had ended mid-month. She described the shutdown’s “most visible impact” as “the shuttering of our national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.” She decried the economic losses suffered by businesses, and gateway communities dependent on public lands but also noted a “silver lining” to the shutdown’s cloud: “The shutdown shined a spotlight on just how much Americans love and value their public lands and the people who serve them.”

Secretary Jewell described President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative as an important part of his plan for a conservation legacy in recognition of the “moral obligation to the next generation to leave our land, water and wildlife better than we found it.” She called for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, passage of a comprehensive public lands package conserving “our nation’s most special lands and waters,” and the encouragement of development “in the right ways and in the right places.”

The Secretary also offered a plan for “engaging the next generation in understanding and stewarding our public lands.” She expressed great concern that millions of young people have grown up with little connection to the natural world, a situation that she described as threatening the future stewardship of public lands. The plan to solve this problem, she explained, involves providing millions of young people with new opportunities for recreation, education, volunteerism, work and training. And the goals are specific and ambitious: partnerships in 50 cities to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for more than 10 million young people by 2017; educational opportunities on public lands for at least 10 million K-12 students every year; volunteer engagement of one million young people on public lands by 2017; and 100,000 work and training opportunities for young people at federal land management agencies over the next four years. To reach these goals, the Secretary described her plan to prioritize budgets, build on successful programs, and leverage resources from partners like schools and communities. She also plans to raise $20 million in partnership with corporate and nonprofit groups. “From my experience in the private sector, I know that there are many organizations and individuals that want to see our lands protected and the next generation engaged,” she said. “We will work together to make these goals a reality.”

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In late November – on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – The Corps Network, the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, and the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute teamed up to host a private-sector working session to explore how public and private-sector partners can work together to protect and conserve the nation’s natural resources while providing opportunities for national service – and for the development of employment skills – to young people and veterans. ARC President Derrick Crandall attended and offered these observations afterwards:

“OK, I’ll ’fess up. I want to be part of a big idea that gets this nation back on course. And that is why I found today’s session with retired General Stan McChrystal, former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, former Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Harris Wofford and others so inspirational. McChrystal was passionate and cogent. He talked about his belief that being a citizen was much more than just voting and paying taxes. It was about taking an active part in supporting something much bigger: our nation. He talked about how military service was good for some, but that service was just as important teaching in inner cities or working on public lands. And he told us that we owed it to the four million Americans turning 18 each year to give them the chance to be part of something big, to buy into being an American citizen. He urged us to join is working on this big idea – a year of paid service to the nation open to all interested youth. He talked about the immediate tangible benefits that could be done for the nation – as the CCC crews did in the 1930’s – and about the even more important benefits that would accrue from Americans proudly joined in serving their nation.

You would have been proud of the energy in the room as top execs from Home Depot and Coke and ExxonMobil and more expressed support and made offers. The park concessioners will be hiring 200-300 conservation corps members (probably 25% young vets) to work under the direction of skilled craftsmen on in-park historic preservation projects. The craftsmen, almost all now senior citizens, won’t be doing the heavy parts of the job. They will be instructors. And the conservation corps members in many cases will acquire carpentry and masonry skills sorely needed to care for tens of thousands of historic, federally-owned buildings. And the senior representatives of the Obama Administration in attendance delivered an exciting message: a “big idea” about national service is a very strong candidate for a centerpiece role in the State of the Union Message in early 2014.

This nation needs leaders like Stan McChrystal and Dirk Kempthorne and Harris Wofford who know when to be political and partisan and when to call upon all Americans to be Americans.”

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The American Recreation Coalition’s Fall Recreation Issues Briefing focused on four key topics: funding recreation in America’s Great Outdoors; connecting people with their Great Outdoors; MAP-21 and key recreation transportation issues; and Great Outdoors Month 2014. More than 50 representatives of recreation, conservation and tourism organizations gathered at AAA in Washington, D.C. to hear from topic experts and to offer their own observations on the issues at hand.

Craig Obey, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association, and Joe Meade, Director of Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources for the U.S. Forest Service, joined ARC President Derrick Crandall to discuss recreation funding. Carlos Alcazar, President of the Hispanic Communications Network, and Jim Rogers, Chairman of KOA, focused on connecting more people to the outdoors. Jill Ingrassia, Managing Director of Government Relations at AAA, brought the group up to date on MAP-21 and related transportation issues. Margaret Bailey, Senior Vice President at CHM Government Services, and Mr. Crandall outlined plans for Great Outdoors Month 2014. To complement the presentations and discussions, ARC prepared and distributed a series of white papers providing useful background on each issue.

The funding discussion covered both the challenges to recreation posed by deep partisan divisions on Capitol Hill and shrinking discretionary domestic spending and the need for pro-active public involvement to take on and solve funding problems. The group also discussed the potential offered by public-private partnerships and the reauthorization of FLREA and MAP-21. The briefing on the need for greater diversity in the outdoors noted the recent dramatic changes in the demographics of the U.S. population – changes that are not reflected in public land outdoor recreation demographics – and the need for the recreation community to create and implement a plan to appeal to a more diverse public. The MAP-21 discussion focused on the need for new funding mechanisms to replace or replenish the currently unsustainable Highway Trust Fund. And, lastly, briefing participants discussed plans to make Great Outdoors Month a more visible and impactful event for the recreation community. A full report on the briefing can be found here.

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A group of recreation, conservation and tourism community leaders met earlier this fall to discuss strategies for the future, with a particular focus on enhancing the appeal of outdoor recreation to the increasingly diverse U.S. population. During their discussions, the leaders recognized that the recreation community needs not only to make outdoor experiences welcoming and interesting for new and diverse participants but also to ensure that information about those experiences is easily available. They also agreed that the recreation community should be delivering messages that reflect big-picture values, like affordable vacations and time with families, which resonate with both traditional and diverse market targets. And they discussed another large challenge, namely, that the recreation community’s need to focus on both increasing participation in outdoor recreation and ensuring that there are sufficient, well maintained facilities to accommodate that growth. They noted that legislation, similar to the legislation that recently expanded recreation activities available at ski areas throughout the year, could help address this issue. Also important are the identification and use of supplementary and sustainable funding sources for the federal land agencies.

Overall, at the end of the session, the participants concluded that the recreation community needs to create a broad leadership group to develop a basic strategy, including common messaging, to increase participation in outdoor recreation, including outreach to diverse populations, and to ensure that recreation facilities and services are of sufficient quantity and quality to accommodate that increased participation.

Stay tuned for next steps.

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The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA), originally slated to expire in December 2014, was extended for one year by the U.S. Congress as part of the legislation ending the shutdown of the federal government. The legislation was signed by President Obama on October 17, 2013. FLREA authorizes the collection of entrance and recreation fees by most of the major federal recreation providers – and the retention of those fees to enhance recreation opportunities at managed sites – and generates approximately $300 million in revenue for the federal land-management agencies. A broad coalition of recreation, conservation and tourism organizations – including ARC – sent a letter to Congressional leaders in late September, calling for FLREA’s extension as “an essential step in producing sustainable, supplemental resources for federal land agencies to achieve long term stability and further our nation’s economic, health and environmental well-being.” A copy of the coalition’s letter can be found here.

The one-year extension provides an important opportunity to develop revisions to FLREA that will enhance its revenue potential and reduce its costs, allowing it to provide better recreation resources and facilities. Among the ideas under consideration are: “dynamic” pricing to encourage more visitation during non-peak periods; re-evaluation of current pricing practices; electronic fee collection and other improvements to increase sales and reduce collection costs; improved means of public feedback and guidance; pilot projects to test new ideas; and development of “value-added” passes and other partnerships with recreation, conservation and tourism groups. ARC is also supporting the inclusion of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in FLREA, allowing that agency – the nation’s largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation – to retain a portion of its fees to support its recreation program.

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By Derrick A. Crandall, President, American Recreation Coalition

The shutdown of the federal government is over – for now – but the significant impact of this experience is still reverberating in the recreation community and is well worth some reflection. Let’s take a closer look. The recreation plans of well over a million people were interrupted – every day. Park concessioners lost an estimated $5 million – every day. The shock to countless gateway communities was huge, with an estimated $76 million in spending by national park visitors lost – every day.

The short-term pain was high, but the longer-term consequences may actually be helpful. The shutdown has added steam to recreation industry efforts to push federal agencies to adopt more business-like strategies, including offering updated campgrounds and putting more reliance on fees over annual appropriations of general revenues. The shutdown did NOT stop the delivery of mail, or airport security screening, because those activities are at least mostly paid for with fees. We will also be pushing for more use of federal fuel tax revenues for roads in parks and other federal areas, because use of these funds will make the roads public roads and much more difficult to close to the public.

There will clearly be some bumps in the road ahead for the recreation industry. Federal recreation programs will face budget constraints for the foreseeable future – and even the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 will not change that. But we also need to be wary about rising interest rates, tax reform that looks at deductions on second homes – even primary residences – and more. One clear positive will be fuel costs. Significant increases in domestic energy production, more efficient vehicles which are constraining demand for fuel, and this year’s mild hurricane season are all good news.

So stay ready to engage. This is a great time for the recreation community to show its capabilities as a Grand Master chess player, using the attention the media has been giving to problems with our parks to get long-term policy changes that will make the Great Outdoors an asset for all of recreation long into the future.

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President Obama has announced two key nominations at the U.S. Department of the Interior: Rhea Suh to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, overseeing the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Neil Kornze to serve as Director of the Bureau of Land Management.

Ms. Suh has been Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget since May 2009, where, in addition to serving as the Department’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Human Capital Officer, she has worked on a number of key initiatives, including revitalization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and youth engagement and employment through “Youth in the Great Outdoors.”

Mr. Kornze joined the BLM in January 2011 and has served as the BLM’s Principal Deputy Director since last March, overseeing conservation, outdoor recreation and energy development programs. Previously, he held positions as Acting Deputy Director for Policy and Programs and Senior Advisor to the Director. He came to the BLM from the Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, where he worked on renewable energy, mining, water, outdoor recreation, rural development, and wildlife conservation issues.

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