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Taking Fees and Privatization to the Next Level
Written by Scott Silver   
Monday, 25 June 2007

I'm going to keep this introduction short. The article which follows is graphic. It provides perhaps the best illustration yet of things we've been warning against for a very long time.

  For more than a decade, Wild Wilderness has made the case that recreation fees would be used to bring about the privatization and commercialization of recreational opportunities upon national forest, national parks and other public lands. With the passage of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) in late 2004, the agencies were given the green light to proceed. Today you can see the results.

Pasted below is crystal clear description of how the fee authority of FLREA is being used to privatize access to, and management of, publicly owned National Forest resources.  Read it and discover that the new "America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Lands Pass" you just purchased for $80 (or your Golden Age Pass)  isn't going to get you into nearly as many places you had thought.  Once your favorite recreation site is taken over by a concessionaire, you may discover that it is no more "public" than is Disneyland.

Scott

Last Updated ( Monday, 25 June 2007 )
 
This Land Was My Land.
Written by Scott Silver   
Sunday, 24 June 2007

I can't say exactly how many of my readers forwarded to me a copy of the wonderful piece written yesterday by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Timothy Egan — but it was many. And while this excellent and important piece is right on the mark with respect to the sentiment it conveys — a sentiment that explain how under the Bush Administration our public lands are being stolen from us —  it contains a large factual error that I'd like to correct. Egan writes that as he drove through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington State he observed that many of the roads were closed, trails were washed out, campgrounds were frayed and, in general,  the place was in tatters. He compared what he experience to "the forestry equivalent of a neighborhood crack house" — and on all these points Egan was correct.

Egan concludes that the land management agencies are being  run by industry lobbyists and that they are "cashing out" our publicly-owned heritage — and on this point he is as right as rain. His piece was wonderful. So where did he go wrong???

Egan erred when he blamed the cashing out of our public lands upon the miserly budgets coming from President Bush. That is only part of the problem and for some agencies, such as the Forest Service, there have been no actual budget cuts.

Yes, the President would like to cut and has even proposed deep cuts in the Forest budget, but those cuts have not happened and, as a result of recent Congressional action,  will not happen this year.  Funding for outdoor recreation and resource management at the level of individual forests, such as the Gifford Pinchot, has indeed been cut to the bone but for the US Forest Service, declining allocations are not to blame.  So what is going on?

An article I shared earlier today spoke of a " 64-percent loss in maintenance funds and a 20-percent cut in operational funding" for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Service. Local forest managers said that this funding cut caused them "to shutter 24 campgrounds, three picnic sites and related services."  Sixty-percent cuts are being reported by several forests around the nation. These are massive cuts, but they did not come from President Bush, nor did they come from Congress.

Let me repeat. The funding cut DID NOT come from either President Bush or Congress.

The Washington DC office of the US Forest Service is bleeding the recreation budget to death. The Regional Offices are ensuring that money received from above DOES NOT get to the ground and IS NOT available to maintain public recreation facilities.

Yes, it is true that the ideology of the Bush Administration is responsible for the cashing out of our American commons and yes --- there is a massive and destructive privatization agenda in play on our public lands today that is based upon the old Reagan concept of "Starving the Beast".

Yes, local forest managers on the Pinchot and on the Rogue and indeed upon all of America's National Forests are having to make do with less.

YES, the upshot will be the parting-out of our once proud tradition public lands. But the destroyers of the public lands do not all reside within the White House nor do they all serve within the Bush Administration a political appointees.

Where Egan erred is in failing to acknowledge that high-level career bureaucrats within the land management agencies, both in the Washington DC offices and within the Regional Office, are largely responsible for executing an agenda presented to them by the Bush Administration and by certain elements within the recreation industry. I call the agenda "The Corporate Takeover of Nature and the Disneyfication of the Wild" and unless stopped, "This Land is Your Land, This Land is my Land" will only be hollow lyrics from a once-popular, once relevant, song. 

Scott

 "We're going to have to do more with less until we do everything with nothing."
- Cid Morgan, USFS District Ranger, California, 2005 

 

Last Updated ( Sunday, 24 June 2007 )
 
The shuttering has begun in earnest
Written by Scott Silver   
Sunday, 24 June 2007
On April 12, 2005 I shared an unusually important article and prefaced it with an introduction that began as follows:
If you currently hike, bike, hunt, fish, camp, float, bird, ride, climb, swim or engage in any other form of outdoor recreation on National Forest managed public-lands, the appended article from today's Oregonian is a MUST READ. It is more than a 'MUST READ'... it deserves ACTION.
In the two years since offering that warning, Wild Wilderness has distributed more than two dozen follow-up warnings. Each further elaborated upon the threat. All contained the common thread seen in these excepts:
  • The Forest Service has begun a program called Recreation Site Facility Master Planning (RS-FMP). They will be evaluating every site nationwide for "financial sustainability."  Sites that cannot generate enough fee revenue to be self-supporting will be closed. (read more)
  • Under RS-FMP, all recreation sites are to become self-sustaining through a combination of reduced services, reduced access, reduced health and safety facilities, increased fees and increased private operation, or they are to be closed. (read more)
  • It's a policy which is requiring every forest throughout the country to inventory each recreation site that is on that forest, and then to compare the facilities and the maintenance status, and the revenue potential of that site, to a national standard. And if it doesn't meet the national standard, to close it or decommission it. (read more)
  • Pasted below is an article published yesterday from the Oregon coast and titled, "Budget Cuts Reduce Forest Service Facilities." 
     
    The days of issuing warning of impending threats about recreation facility closures are in the past. What we warned would happen, is happening. What appears below is a 'MUST READ' article and this issue represents a rapidly growing threat to everyone who enjoys recreating in the Great Outdoors.
     
    Scott
     
    PS: Appended after the article is the introduction Robert Funkhouser of Western Slope No Fee Coalition provided for this article when he circulated it earlier in the day.
    Last Updated ( Sunday, 24 June 2007 )
     
    The Next Senator from Wyoming? Not!
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Wednesday, 20 June 2007
    Tom Sansonetti is one of three candidates seeking to fill the Senate vacancy resulting from the recent death of Craig Thomas (R-WY). Sansonetti's nine page bio/resume was filed last week with the Wyoming GOP and can be found at this link -- and here's a short passage quoted from page nine:
    "As Assistant Attorney General, Tom also supervised litigation that had great impact on the people of Wyoming and the West. He defended the Bush Administration's effort to keep a full range of recreational opportunities, including snowmobile, available to the visitors in Yellowstone National Park..."
    Giving Sanonetti the credit he is due, it now seems appropriate to suggest that he is one of the five most important players in the never-ending Yellowstone snowmobile access issue. Of these five, three (Sansonetti, William Horn and Derrick Crandall) also have in common the fact they they recently pleaded for leniency for former Deputy Secretary of Interior, J. Steven Griles.
     
    It was, in fact, while reading Sansonetti's May 15th letter to the Judge in the Griles case that I discovered Sansonetti previously headed the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Department of Interior in 2000-2001 and that, in Sansonetti's own words: "I introduced Steve to Interior Secretary Norton as a potential candidate for Deputy Secretary."
     
    It was in that position, as Deputy Secretary, that Griles got into such great trouble and became a convicted felon.
     
    Three questions now come to mind. 
    If Sansonetti is responsible for recommending Griles to be Interior Deputy Secretary, what does that say about Sansonetti's ability to judge character and his environmental values?
     
    If Sansonetti headed, and presumably hand picked,  the Bush Interior Transition team, what might that suggest about the persons who served upon that team?
     
    If Sansonetti is as extreme as he appears, then what kind of a US Senator will he be if he is selected as Senator Thomas' replacement?
    Pasted below is the list of members on Sansonetti's Interior Transition Team.
     
    Scott
    On June 14, 2004, the Department of Justice asked energy industry officials to help the federal government in fighting lawsuits filed by environmental groups that question oil and gas drilling on public lands. Assistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti said, "we need help. Sometimes, two or three of our attorneys are matched up against entire law firms.

     

    Update -  Wyoming Governor Freudenthal, a Democrat, chose John Barrasso over Cheyenne attorney Tom Sansonetti and former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis.

    Last Updated ( Saturday, 23 June 2007 )
     
    Busting the Griles Story Wide Open
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Tuesday, 19 June 2007
    "J. Steven Griles did the crime but doesn't want to do the time" is the headline of a investigative report published this morning on the MediaTransparency.org website.
     
    One week from today, former Interior Deputy Director Griles is to be sentenced in conjunction with his conviction for obstruction of a Congressional investigation into the affairs of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Whether Griles joins Abramoff in prison or is permitted to go to work for the Walt Disney Corporation and the anti-environmental "American Recreation Coalition" has become the basis for an unfolding news story now rapidly gaining traction in the press and within the blogosphere. It is an issue with which I am intimately familiar and uniquely qualified to comment.
     
    In recent days columnist Bill Berkowitz and I collaborated in the telling of "the rest of the story".  I hope you enjoy reading, and will share widely, the resulting MediaTransparency article which appears below.
     
    Scott
     
    Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 June 2007 )
     
    Those close to Griles
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Monday, 18 June 2007
    Pasted below is the latest installment in the ongoing Griles saga. ARC's Derrick Crandall is quoted. The Disney Corporation has, so far, refused to comment. The Department of Justice says Griles deserves jail for his actions in the Abramoff case -- and I agree. At least in jail Griles can do not harm. If he is permitted to work for either Disney of the American Recreation Coalition, there's no telling the additional harm he could do.
     
    As this story continues to unfold I sincerely hope that the national media and the general public start to associate Steven Griles with Jack Abramoff, the Disney Company, the American Recreation Coalition, Wonderful Outdoor World and Take Pride in America. 
     
    It is difficult to image that anyone believes that the Griles/ Disney / ARC connection is innocent. But what about the ARC / WOW / TPIA connection?  Innocent or something else ???

    Scott

    Last Updated ( Monday, 18 June 2007 )
     
    Griles Seeks to Escape Jail
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Monday, 18 June 2007
    Appended is a news release issued this morning about convicted felon, former Interior Deputy Secretary Steven Griles and about his request to be permitted to work for the Disney Company instead of being sentenced to do hard time in a federal penitentiary.  The Disney program mentioned below is in fact a joint venture between the the Walt Disney Company AND the American Recreation Coalition.
     
    To learn about WOW from the ARC's perspective, you are invited to visit  their WOW webpage
     
    To learn about WOW from the Wild Wilderness perspecitve, you are invited to search the Wild Wilderness blog where many postings can be found.
     
    I'd just like to add that WOW is just one small component within the recreation industry's "Kids in the Woods" initiative ... an effort to bring technology to wild places and to turn the Great Outdoors into a lucrative, privately managed, commercially oriented, heavily motorized, naturally scenic version of Disney World.
     
    To learn about "Kids in the Woods" from the Wild Wilderness perspecitive, you are invited to search the Wild Wilderness blog where many postings can be found.
     
    To learn about Kids in the Woods from the recreation industry's perspective, you need only pick up any newspaper or magazine.
     
    Scott

    Last Updated ( Monday, 18 June 2007 )
     
    Going to bat for a friend
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Saturday, 16 June 2007
    Quoted from appended article from today's press: 
    “Instead of doing jail time for lying to Congress in the Jack Abramoff investigation, disgraced Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles has asked a federal judge to be allowed to do community service with the American Recreation Coalition and the Walt Disney Company,” Silver said, “and to once again work on their behalf much as he did before being caught, fired and convicted.”
    It's not difficult to imagine that Griles may soon be working for the ARC. It is, after all, a perfect match-up and they already enjoy the benefits of what has been more than a 20 year working relationship.  What is difficult to believe is that so many public figures are pleading on Griles' behalf and imploring the courts to have him work for the anti-environmental / wise-use ARC as pertinence for his felonious crime.
     
    What is most difficult for me to believe is that the specific ARC programs and initiatives upon which Griles would be working are not generally understood to be components within the ARC's ongoing, anti-environmental agenda.  Is it possible that those pleading on Griles' behalf, people such as Congresswoman Barbara Cubin, Former Interior Secretaries Gale Norton and Donald Hodel, and long-time motorized recreation lobbyist Bill Horn know more about the ARC and its programs than does the general public and that these anti-environmental villains are having a good laugh at the expense of the American People and their public lands????
      
    Scott

     

    J. Steven Griles and Derrick Crandall
    Photo credit: American Recreation Coalition

    Last Updated ( Saturday, 16 June 2007 )
     
    Have Mercy on Steven Griles !?
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Friday, 15 June 2007
    You might think it difficult to find even one high-profile public figure willing to express unqualified support for someone as loathed as J. Steven Griles.  Griles, who served as Interior Secretary Gale Norton's Deputy until being forced to resign for his refusal to cooperate in the investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is said to have pursued an anti-environment agenda more radical than that of Ronald Reagan's Interior Secretary James Watt. Who in their right mind would support Griles now that he is a disgraced, convicted criminal awaiting sentencing? Then again, who would have supported James Watt?
     
    In 1981, Derrick Crandall, President of American Recreation Coalition took on the national Sierra Club for, as Crandall put it, trying to "create a false impression of what the public really believes about Jim Watt." 
     
    In 1985, Derrick Crandall took on the Wilderness Society as they fought to block the confirmation of environmental enemy Donald Hodel as Interior Secretary. In the national press Crandall applauded Hodel for "his openness and receptivity to outside views." 
     
    On June 8th, 2007,  J. Steven Griles submitted to the court a "Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing" in which he pleaded with the Judge presiding over his case not to incarcerate him, but to instead permit him to work as an unpaid volunteer for ARC's Derrick Crandall.
     
    You might think it difficult to find a public figure willing to express unqualified support for the likes of J. Steven Griles --- and yet there is someone who has not only done so, he has similarly supported James Watt, Donald Hodel, Gale Norton and other world-class Department of Interior environmental villains in their times of need.
     
    Pasted below is a extraordinary letter sent last month by Derrick Crandall to Judge Huvelle. It begins: 
     [I am writing in support of J. Steven Griles, who is to be sentenced before you on June 26, 2007. I write to ask you for leniency as you determine his sentence and consider how he might best benefit society.
     
     I have known Steve Griles for more than twenty years, both during his government service and his work in the private sector. I have always found him to be honest, committed to the core mission of my organization (connecting Americans with our legacy of the Great Outdoors) and hard-working.]
     
    As you read Crandall's entire letter, perhaps it will become more clear how, over the course of two and half decades, the American Recreation Coalition came to so totally dominate the Department of Interior's Outdoor recreation policy.  Yes, the ARC experienced a setback last summer when their re-write of the National Park policies (as shepherded for them by DoI's Paul Hoffman) was broadly lambasted and eventually rejected. But in 2007, the ARC is fully back in the saddle and today Derrick Crandall is, as he has long been, the undisputed Jack Abramoff of Federal Recreation Policy Lobbying.
     
    Very soon J. Steven Griles may, once again, be working in support of ARC's core mission — that, of course, being to commercialize, privatize and motorize recreational opportunities upon all of America's public lands.
     
    Scott

     

    J. Steven Griles on left, Fran Mainella (middle) and Derrick Crandall on right.
    Photo Credit: American Recreation Coalition 

    Last Updated ( Monday, 18 June 2007 )
     
    Griles, Disney, the ARC and Guilt by Association
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Friday, 15 June 2007
    Instead of doing jail time for lying to Congress in the Jack Abramoff investigation, disgraced Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles has asked a federal judge to be allowed to do community service with the American Recreation Coalition and the Walt Disney Company and to once again work on their behalf much as he did before being caught, fired and convicted.
     
    If there is such a thing as "guilt by association" then much guilt is revealed in the appended article.  I encourage those who read it will make note of the people, companies and programs Steven Griles has turned to in his hour of need.  Which of these people, companies and programs are worthy of public trust?
     
    Which are not? Which are as bent or as corrupt as Griles?
     
    Relevant information on Steven Griles, Derrick Crandall, Disney, Wonderful Outdoor World, Gale Norton, Bill Horn, Don Hodel, the US Forest Service, the Coleman Company and more can all be found on the Wild Wilderness website. Simply use the search box available on the left hand side of this, and every, page.
     
    Scott

     

    PHOTO: Deputy Secretary of Interior, Steve Griles takes time for a picture with ARC's June 10th Volunteer Work Day Coordinator, Carolyn Crandall, daughter of American Recreation Coalition President, Derrick Crandall.
    (Photo Credit: the American Recreation Coalition)

    Last Updated ( Friday, 15 June 2007 )
     
    Squeezing Kids' Triggers
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Thursday, 14 June 2007

    One year ago the American Recreation Coalition came into the sights of the New York Times for their non-too-subtle efforts to re-write National Park Service policies and turn America's Crown Jewels into motorized playgrounds.  On June 10, 2006 the New York Times editorialized against the ARC in these words:

       [What's most worrying about this last-minute lobbying - besides the fact that recreation seems limited to activities involving an internal combustion engine - is the suggestion, put forward by the American Recreation Coalition, that the Park Service revise the management policy regularly. There is only one reason for a suggestion like that: to give "recreation leaders" a regular chance to pressure the park system for increased motorized vehicle access.]

    That was last year. Today, everything is suddenly different!

    While the American Recreation Coalition remains as committed as ever to their long-term goal of commercializing, privatizing and motorizing recreational opportunities upon our nation's public lands, today they are using entirely new, and far more effective (and dangerous) messaging.

    Today, the ARC has wrapped their agenda within a framework of children and using this frame they, and their agenda,  are gaining incredible ground. Today you will not find the NY Times editorializing against the ARC's efforts. On the contrary, today newspapers from coast to coast are lauding the ARC's "Kids in the Woods" campaign as if it were other than simply another approach being taken by the same old recreation industry insiders.

    Appended in an article published yesterday in which I had much to say about ARC's new tact. Pasted here is a quote from an article published today in which ARC's President explains how it is now possible to use technology in order to lure kids to nature. Make special note of these words --- "at one time technology was seen as the enemy of outdoor activity. Now, he [Crandall] said, the goal is to make it a 'friend.' "

    Derrick Crandall is president and CEO of the American Recreation Coalition, a non-profit group that wants to get people outdoors. As such the group does research, keeps an eye on legislation, and tries to get out the message of encouraging "fun outdoors." Crandall shared a challenge that hits close to home with technologists: getting kids to recreate outside of the 6.5 hours a typical sixth-grader spends in front of a screen (TV, computer, iPod…). The research is fascinating. Kids, it turns out, are well aware of why they congregate in fast food places - there are triggers (like signs on the highway) that lure them there and allow them to network with others. If there were similar triggers for outdoor activities, perhaps they'd make those choices. Crandall explained how groups pushing the outdoors need to use the triggers that get to young people: text messaging, MySpace and the like. He also noted that at one time technology was seen as the enemy of outdoor activity. Now, he said, the goal is to make it a "friend." In fact, a study done with young people involving a treasure hunt was rated much higher when it involved GPS than when it did not.


    Contrast what you've just read with these words from Aldo Leopold and ask yourself whose vision do you support, that of Crandall or Leopold.  And finally, KNOW that in the eyes of today's land mangers, Crandall's vision has all but totally replaced that of Leopold.

     "Bureaus build roads into new hinterlands, then by more hinterlands to absorb the exodus accelerated by the roads. A gadget industry pads the bumps against nature-in-the-raw: woodcraft becomes the art of using gadgets. And now, to cap the pyramid of banalities, the trailer. To him who seeks in the woods and mountains only those things obtainable from travel or golf, the present situation is tolerable. But to him who seeks something more, recreation has become a self-destructive process of seeking but never quite finding; a major frustration of mechanized society....

       Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer. He has draped the American outdoors man with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them. Gadgets fill the pockets, they dangle from neck and belt. The overflow fills the auto-trunk, and also the trailer. Each item of outdoor equipment grows lighter and often better, but the aggregate poundage becomes tonnage."    
       
        -Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac


    Scott

    Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 June 2007 )
     
    USFS dumping its most profitable campgrounds
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Sunday, 27 May 2007

    The USFS is rapidly moving to privatize the operation of it's most popular, highest revenue producing, campgrounds.  Less-developed campgrounds and those incapable to producing a positive revenue stream will be closed or their seasons of operation severely curtailed. Those facilities that will be privatized will in many cases be heavily developed by the concessionaire in an effort to maximize revenues.

    Nothing I've just said is new, as you will see below. What's new is that the pace of this privatization / commercialization has accelerated to the point where it is possible to see the process occurring on a almost daily basis.

    Pasted below are newspaper articles published in the past two days. One is from Arkansas, the other from Georgia. They are explicit and they should serve as a warning to everyone.

    Neither, however, mentions the Recreation Site Facility Master Planning Process --- the process now taking place nationwide and threatening to bring privatization, outsourcing, decommissioning, and/or shorter seasons of operation of your favorite Forest Service campground no matter where you live.

    Here's the warning we offered in April 2005

    If you currently hike, bike, hunt, fish, camp, float, bird, ride, climb, swim or engage in any other form of outdoor recreation on National Forest managed pubic-lands, the appended article from today's Oregonian is a MUST READ. It is more than a 'MUST READ'... it deserves ACTION.

    Simply stated, opportunities to enjoy your public lands are about to be severely limited. The USFS will, in the months ahead, begin to close many of the places you now enjoy. They will be selling those resources they no longer intend to maintain. They will be privatizing those sites concessionaires wish to operate. They will be "improving" the places they choose to keep and doing so in order to maximize revenue collection and to better cater to a new customer base they hope to lure to the forests. They intend to cater to an entirely new class of forest users ... the kind that expect their entertainment pre-packaged, neatly presented and easily purchased.

    The good news is that Congress is none too pleased with what the Forest Service is doing. The bad news is that the Forest Service's privatization efforts extend far beyond campgrounds and that soon enough you'll be paying a private concessionaire at a great great many publicly-owned recreation sites and facilities.

    Scott

    Last Updated ( Sunday, 27 May 2007 )
     
    Recreation and Global Warming Hearing
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Thursday, 24 May 2007
    Recreation Industry's Gravest Threats Come from Global Warming "Solutions" .... reads the title of the attached blog now appearing on Senator Inhofe's website. Testifying TODAY in support of Inhofe's radical position on climate change were Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition and Barry McCahill, President of Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America (SUVOA) -- a automotive industry front group upon whose Board of Directors Derrick Crandall sits
     
    I'd just remind folks that in 1979 the American Recreation Coalition was created specifically, and for little purpose other than, to support and defend the unfettered use of gasoline for recreation
     
    Crandall has long been Mr. Motorized Wreckreation (motorhomes, snowmobiles, ATVs, jet-skis, driving for pleasure, etc.). He has testified on several occasions in support of drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and he has long been a major player working to thwart efforts directed at preventing catastrophic climate change.
     
    In fact, it was in 1997 that I wrote a particularly important piece titled "When it Comes to Global Warming; the American Recreation Coalition is a Red Hot Player".
     
    Today Derrick Crandall has burnished his already stellar anti-environment credentials. For those wishing to read his complete testimony and to soak in the full hypocrisy of this villain, it is available at the link provided below.
     
    Scott
    Last Updated ( Thursday, 24 May 2007 )
     
    Kids, Virgins and Apple Pie in the Woods
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Wednesday, 23 May 2007

    The anti-environmental wreckreation interests which last year attempted to rewrite the National Park management policies and transform the National Parks into places of greater fun, are at it again. This time, however,  they're partnering with the US Forest Service and using honey instead of a big stick. This time the danger is greater -- because this time almost no one will stand in their way.

    The villains are the same. Their interests and objectives are the same. Their vehicle is motherhood, virginity and apple pie ... and exposing what the industry is attempting to do will be unusually difficult.

    I'd just add that their entire frame, while conceptually brilliant, is built upon a false presumption. In the appended article from today's Casper Star-Tribune I get the last word and with it, I do my best to stand in the American Recreation Coalition's way.

    I'd sure appreciate some help from others within the conservation community, because without help, the industry's vehicle will likely make some deep tracks.

    Scott

    Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 May 2007 )
     
    Warning - Last Child in the Woods
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Wednesday, 16 May 2007
    I have frequently drawn attention to the efforts of specific elements within the anti-environmental wreckreation industry to turn Richard Louv's book "Last Child in the Woods" into the engine for the advancement of their commercialization, privatization, motorization agenda.  They are succeeding.
     
    Appended are two related items. The first is an invitation to the American Recreation Coalition's upcoming Recreation Exchange. On Tuesday May 22nd at ARC's event "Gail Kimbell, Chief of the Forest Service, will outline steps by the agency and its partners to alter the path reported by Louv under an initiative called More Kids in the Woods."
     
    Two days later, the House Resources Committee will hold an Oversight Hearing titled "No Child Left Inside: Reconnecting Kids with the Outdoors." The Witness List is, at this point in time, still to be announced.
     
    I do not disagree with Louv's message.
     
    I am, however, deeply concerned with how industry latched onto it and is currently using the children issue to further the Corporate Takeover of Nature and the Disneyfication of the Wild.
     
    Scott

     

    Last Updated ( Wednesday, 16 May 2007 )
     
    Volunteers Could Lose Passes
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Tuesday, 15 May 2007

    If you receive valuable compensation in exchange for labor, are you volunteering or are you employed? If an agency, a concessionaire, or a non-profit organization operating upon federally managed public lands gives a free recreation pass in exchange for a specific quantity of labor performed, is that showing appreciation or providing employment?

      The Oregon Court of Appeals will soon be taking up those issues in a nationally significant case. The case involves the giving of seasonal ski-passes to those who volunteer for the Bend-based Mt. Bachelor Ski Education Foundation --- but, so I suggest, something FAR more important is at stake!!

    The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004 authorized the creation of a the America the Beautiful Volunteer pass which, according to government sources "will be issued free of charge to volunteers who accrue 500 volunteer hours."  The America the Beautiful Pass is the contentious new $80 public lands recreation pass which replaced the older National Parks Pass and now provides basic access to most federally managed public lands.

    According to the front page article from today's Bend Bulletin (appended), with respect to the giving of ski passes, Oregon's "Employment Department and Department of Justice are arguing that those free annual passes are actually the equivalent of wages, because they have value and were offered in exchange for service."

    The Hearings officer said:

    "Volunteering is commendable and in many ways governmental policies and laws do encourage this ... but the volunteer work cannot be done in exchange for remuneration or with the expectation of remuneration being paid."

    I've long said that the America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass was ILLEGAL because it compensates workers at the equivalent of sixteen cents per hour and runs afoul of minimum wage laws. Now it appears that the awarding of an America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass may have more legal problems than those to which I've previously pointed. And as the federal government continues to transition from using paid employees to using volunteers, the issue of what exactly is a volunteer will become of increasing importance.

    Scott 

    Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 May 2007 )
     
    Still More Outsourcing of Public Comment
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Wednesday, 09 May 2007

    With some student/faculty exceptions, the Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at the Utah State University Extension is one of the bastions of inside the box, industrial-wreckreation, thinking. The work of many on staff contributes to the academic leg of the four-legged platform currently conspiring to transform random acts of outdoor re-creation into planned tourism consumption for fun an profit. Other legs are the land management agencies, political ideologues and  the travel-tourism / recreation industry.

    Not too long ago, things were different. Before the incentives of pay-to-play warped the thinking of recreation managers and before the days of outsourcing, politically-motivated insourcing, unethical collaboration and rigged public-private partnerships sucked the democracy out of the public comment process, the US Forest Service (at least in theory) made an effort to listen to the American People and to rationally act upon what they heard.

    No more. Today the FS and other agencies as often as not contract-out or use politically motivated internal entrepreneurial groups to obtain whatever justification they feel is required to execute an agenda created for them by external forces. Meaningful public input has largely been replaced with an illusion of public participation.

    Pasted below is an article about an forest recreation listening session that will be held tomorrow evening at Utah State in Logan.  I have a bad feeling about this process...

    Scott

    Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 May 2007 )
     
    Free-Market Techno Environmentalism
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Wednesday, 09 May 2007

    Those on the political RIGHT are having a field day with a commentary written by a British-based American author Lionel Shriver. The article, titled "How Green Was My Garbage" was published this week in the Wall Street Journal and makes the startling claim that "Environmentalism has become the fashionable fig leaf to cover for extortion." (See appended)

    Sadly, and speaking as a hard-core progressive environmentalist, I believe the claim is largely justified and, if anything, understated.

    Almost a decade ago, during the Clinton/Gore era and long before the events of 911, I predicted that a particular brand of Free-Market Techno Environmentalism would some rise up and become a direct replacement for what I assumed would be the declining role played by the Military Industrial Complex as the primary engine of crony-capitalism. It turns out that I was only half wrong.

    Free-Market Techno Environmentalism is quickly becoming a fig leaf that will do more to redistribute wealth to those who are already wealthy than it will do to solve pressing and real environmental problems.

    Free-Market Techno Environmentalism will DELAY the day when genuine progress is made toward solving genuine environmental problems.

    And Free-Market Techno Environmentalism will, or so I predicted, evolve into a tool used by those who rule the world to further advance what is fundamentally an anti-democratic RIGHT-WING pro-corporate-dominance agenda.

    Right-wing bloggers and commentators will bitch and moan either reflexively and without thinking, or deliberately and with considered malice.

    My fellow progressive enviros will look the other way.

    As a result, the collapse of democracy, quality of life and environmental integrity will occur at an accelerated pace.

    Here is a quote from the warning I issued almost a decade ago:

    [So, in the waning days of this century we are witnessing the creation of the replacement for that venerable, WWII institution. With every passing month we will see new examples of federal subsidies being thrown at finding 'Technological Fixes' for our numerous environmental problems. Those problems of our own creation. While technological fixes may slow down the escalation of Global Warming, or food shortages, or air pollution, or those other maladies that threaten the sustainability of the human race, technological fixes, on their own will never solve the problem.]           

    Scott

    Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 May 2007 )
     
    Clayoquot's Ultra-Luxury Privatized Wilderness
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Tuesday, 08 May 2007

    Some weeks ago I ran across an item that caught my eye. It was the website of the Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts & Spa and it was unlike anything I'd ever before associated with "Wilderness"

    Today I stumbled upon an article titled, "Clayoquot Resort Plans Trail Upgrades Into Strathcona Park" and my antennae twitched frenetically. The article was about a private resort's desire to spend big bucks to upgrade a wilderness trail associated with a Canadian Provincial Park. Local activists described this action  with these words - "We believe this is a first step in opening up the park to exclusive use by a private commercial interest."

    Because the parks commercialization and privatization agenda is further advanced in Canada than it is here in the states, looking North provides a clear peek into the future that awaits our own National Parks and Wilderness areas.

    THIS is the direction things are headed. And while this future has already arrived in Canada, it may yet be avoidable here in the USA.

    Scott 

    Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 May 2007 )
     
    National Park Visitation Problem Solved
    Written by Scott Silver   
    Friday, 04 May 2007

    The issue of rapidly escalating National Park Service fees has recently begun to get consider media attention. 

    What people have forgotten, is that less than a decade ago the big problem for the National Parks was that "people are loving them to death", or so we were told. People have forgotten that the SOLUTION proposed for the problem of over-use was to end what the fee-supporting folks at the Property and Environment Research Center called "welfare recreation" ---i.e., low cost opportunities for American taxpayers to enjoy recreation on their publicly funded public lands. The solution was to increase the price of a visit to the National Parks and other public lands sufficiently to drive people away. More particularly, the solution was to drive away the marginal income segment of the market and thus provide an improved experience for those wealthy enough to be unaffected by increased fees.

    Today the BIG PR spin coming from the NPS, Department of Interior and recreation industry is the need to attract "less represented populations" to the parks.  The segment of the population targeted by this campaign is most likely comprised of people in the mid- to lower income brackets... i.e., the very people who are most likely to be dissuaded from using public lands because of new and higher fees.

     PERC and others said that higher fees would reduce visitation. Fees were increased and visitation fell. The concepts espoused by PERC and the American Recreation Coalition, which has long been a supporter of "differential pricing", worked. Yesterday's hot-button problem of loving our parks to death has been solved. Free-Market Economics drove visitors away, as any thinking person knew they would!

    Today the PR message that is on everyone's tongue focuses upon trying to increase visitation by a wider segment of the public -- a segment likely to poorer and thus more heavily impacted by steep entrance fees. How are these mid- and lower income folks going to be attracted to the parks if  higher fees have been keeping them away??? The answer is frightening! It's what I've been saying all along.

    The plan is to DISNEYFY the parks and make them more commercial, more alluring and more fun. The plan is to privately fund the construction and operation of new and high-profile recreation attractions and then aggressively market the parks and their new attractions.

    If allowed to happen, this would be the one-two knockout combination for the parks long sought by the free-market ideologues and recreation industry buccaneers.

    PERC's SOLUTION was fully documented by PERC researcher J. Bishop Grewell in a 2002 article titled "All Play and No Play: The Adverse Effect of Welfare Recreation" from 2002. Grewell's paper unabashedly explains the concept of pricing people out of the parks with higher fees.

    Pasted below are two short sections from this comprehensive treatise. The full and original paper can be read at the link provided.

    Scott
     

    Last Updated ( Friday, 04 May 2007 )
     
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