Yesterday the American Recreation Coalition issued a news release that began with these words:
Washington, D.C. – More than 80 organizations recently wrote to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior calling for an inquiry into why the national park system is failing to provide the American public with the appropriate level of visitation to meet the nation’s mental, physical and spiritual needs.
The ARC did not give further details.
Through contacts within the Department of Interior I have obtained the text of ARC's letter to Secretary Kempthorne as well as the list of organizations that have assembled themselves under the ARC's umbrella in an effort to interfere with how our National Parks are managed.
I've provided that information below and encourage you to read what these special interest groups have just said to their long-time friend, Mr. Kempthorne.
I will just add that I was pleased to discover that the list of names contains only the usual group anti-parks trouble-markers. Most of these organizations are ARC members. Many of them are, I suspect, the same people with whom Paul Hoffman worked in his attempt to rewrite NPS management policies so as to throw the parks open to unfettered commercialization, privatization and motorization.
PS... After making this post, the ARC put the original letter online at http://www.funoutdoors.com/files/kletter.pdf where it can now be viewed
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American Recreation Coalition,
1225 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC 20006
(202)682-9530 Fax (202) 682-9529
August 30, 2006
The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Kempthorne:
Outdoor recreation enriches the lives of virtually every American. Whether on urban trails or in distant wilderness, whether alone or in the company of family and friends, recreational experiences provide mental, physical and spiritual benefits. The national park system provides some 270 million of these experiences annually, people enjoying and benefiting from the vision of Americans who pioneered the conservation movement by establishing the world’s first national park system.
The 1916 Organic Act of the National Park Service established a clear mission for the agency:
“to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild lite therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” We believe that the National Park Service is not fulfilling this mission with regard to enjoyment of the parks. The creators of the National Park Service understood the value of visits to our parks and sought to encourage and provide infrastructure designed for memorable visits. We find this understanding and action lacking today.
Today, our national park system is providing fewer valuable experiences than it did 20 years ago. While the national park system has grown from 310 to 390 units over the last 20 years (up 25%), while the U.S. population has climbed from 243 million to 300 million (up 23%), and while our spending on parks has grown substantially (a 300% increase in the agency’s operating budget), the number of visitations to the national park system has actually decreased from 287 million in 1987 to a projected 270 million visits in 2006— a decline of 6%. And agency projections call for a further 1% decline in 2007. Fewer Americans are visiting and benefiting from our parks, and the failure to deliver these benefits to urban Americans, youth, senior citizens, the disabled and Americans of diverse ethnicity should be of particular concern to all of us.
Moreover, just 63 million of these 270 million visits — 23% — can be attributed to the 58 units designated as national parks. Our national recreation areas, national seashores and other types of units drew more than 75% of all visits to the national park system.
We believe that the lands and waters administered by the National Park Service have the capacity to provide enjoyment for millions of additional visitors taking part in appropriate activities, delivering experiences yielding needed mental, physical and spiritual benefits.
We know there is demand. Recreation spending has increased dramatically over the past 20 years — the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports recreation spending increased by 386% from 1984 to 2004 (versus increases of 362% on health care and 154% on food!).
If the national park system can accommodate additional visitors without impairment, if these additional visits would provide measurable benefits to individuals and the nation, then what is constraining visits and what can be done to overcome these constraints?
We ask your help in answering these questions. We urge you to direct the National Park Service to work with diverse constituents to investigate and reverse the reasons for the decline in benefits to the American public being provided by its national park system. It is time for all who celebrate the legacy of our national parks to work together to ensure that the park system remains relevant to most Americans — a natural outgrowth of a return to the balanced intent of the Organic Act. We believe one key constraint on visits has been agency policies, attitudes and practices, where the value of enjoyment of the parks is consistently undervalued and the diversity of the national park system is obscured.
We ask your help. We invite you to help Americans who visit and know our parks prove that they are the best friends of the national park system.
Thank you for your consideration.
Alliance of Gateway Communities
American Association for Nude Recreation
American Council of Snowmobile Associations
American Horse Council
American Horse Publications
American Motorcyclist Association
American Quarter Horse Association
American Recreation Coalition
American Saddlebred Horse Association of Georgia
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
Appaloosa Horse Club
Arkansas Chapter of the Missouri Foxtrotters Trail Riders
Arkansas Horse Council, Inc.
Arkansas Trail Riders Association
Association of Marina Industries
Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs
Back Country Horsemen of America -Buffalo River Chapter, Arkansas
Back Country Horsemen of America -Front Range Chapter
Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico - Lower Rio Grande Chapter
Back Country Horsemen of Washington - Willapa Hills Chapter
Bay State Trail Riders Association, Inc.
Beaver Valley Sno-Goers
Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatU.S.)
Breeders and Exhibitors Association
Colorado Snowmobile Association
Equestrian Trails, Inc.
Family Motor Coach Association
Florida RV Trade Association
Forest Recreation Association
Georgia Morgan Horse Club
Good Sam Club
Gray Wolf Ouffitters
Greater Houston Horse Council
Harrison Round Up Club
Heritage and Trails Foundation, Inc.
Horse Council of Nevada
Idaho Horse Council
Illinois Association of Snowmobile Clubs
International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association
Kansas Horse Council
Marine Manufacturers Association
Marine Retailers Association of America
Marine Trades Association of Maryland
Michigan Boating Industries Association
Michigan Snowmobile Association
Montana Ouffitters and Guides Association
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Ski & Snowboard Retailers Association
National Tour Association
Nebraska State Snowmobile Association
New York State Horse Council
Northeast Snowmobile Club Association
Northern Colorado Back Country Horsemen
Ohio Horse Council
Oregon State Snowmobile Association
Paso Fino Horse Association
Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association, Inc.
Personal Watercraft Industry Association
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
Rockingham Riding Club
Roundup Riders of the Rockies
Show Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen
Siouxland Shady Brady Saddle Club
Snowmobile North Dakota
Southeast Tourism Policy Council
Specialty Equipment Market Association
Specialty Vehicle Institute of America
SUV Owners of America
Tennessee Horse Council
Tennessee Walking Horse
The Indiana Snowmobilers Association, Inc.
Tread Lightly!, Inc.
Utah Snowmobile Association
Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, Inc.
Washington Ouffitters and Guides Association
Washington State Snowmobile Association
Western States Tourism Policy Council
Wyoming State Snowmobile Association