Why You Should Boycott the New National Recreation Fee Demonstration Program

The "Recreation Fee Demonstration Program", now being introduced nation-wide, is a prime example of what can be expected from unholy partnerships involving big business and federal government. This particular program, requiring trail-users to pay a fee in order to access Wilderness areas and other public lands, represents the thin edge of a very thick wedge. Driving this wedge deep into national recreation legislation and policy are foreign and domestic recreation corporations and their wise-use supporters.

Perhaps the most important player in this arena is the ubiquitous, but little known, American Recreation Coalition (ARC) This business consortium has literally taken control of America's recreational policies. ARC seeks to Motorize, Privatize and Commercialize all of America's Public Lands for the benefit of its corporate and wise-use supporters. While you may not have heard of ARC, it has already established footholds everywhere: From the Chief of Staff serving the new Forest Service Director, to the Advisory Board of the Congressionally created National Forest Foundation. The recreation fee program itself is a special kind of joint venture, known as a Challenge Cost-Share Partnership (CCSP), involving ARC and various branches of the U.S. Government.

In recent years, federal recreational land managers have had to endure severe funding cuts. These cuts were not made in order to eliminate government waste or to reduce the federal deficit, as the public has been led to believe. These cuts are part of a carefully orchestrated strategy by sympathetic Congressmen working hand-in-glove with the wise-use movement; a strategy calculated to co-opt public lands for corporate profit and to guarantee "motorized recreational access" without future restrictions. The American public will be seeing many more Challenge Cost-Share Partnerships in the future unless public funding can somehow be restored for maintenance of our national parks and public lands. While a few of these CCSP's may address real needs, many will be nothing more than thinly disguised efforts to gain control of virtually all recreational opportunities on federal lands. Monetary profit will be the sole motivation of many corporate sponsors of these programs.

Much of America's worst recreational legislation is being crafted by the staunchly anti-environmental Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK). According to the American Land Rights Association, itself a rabid wise-use organization, "Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition is leading an effort for a new Recreation 'Super-Bill'. He is lobbying Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) toward including his recreation wish list in a bill Murkowski is considering...".

American Recreation Coalition represents more than 100 industry organizations. Included on its member list are dozens of Motor Boat, Jet-Ski, RV, Motorcycle, ORV and Snowmobile manufacturers and associations. The remainder of the coalition represents a diverse range of interests including: Ski Area Associations, Public Lands Concessionaires, Campground Associations, Sporting Equipment Manufacturers, Tour Associations, Petroleum Companies, the NRA and the Walt Disney Company. Not one hiking, backpacking or environmental organization is included on this list (though there are some pretenders).

At last year's Western States Coalition's Summit, ARC participated on a panel moderated by People for the West President, and wise-use leader, Bob Quick. The panel sought to answer the question 'Are Domestic Natural Resources Important Anymore?' This panel concluded, " that although outright wins are unlikely, lobbying can define the issues favorably. The alternative, they said, is to let Vice President Al Gore and others set the agenda for the environment."

 

Motorcycle Fee Demo

 

ARC has positioned itself perfectly for the task of "defining issues". Jack Harrison of National Forest Recreation Association said, "On the national level, NFRA's partnership with the American Recreation Coalition provides our association with access to legislative and policy information which we could not afford to generate on our own." Similarly, through its Recreation Roundtable, ARC, provides "landmark research ... on recreation motivations, satisfactions and barriers which is now shaping federal agency decision-making and is likely to prompt new, cooperative research on public recreation wants between the public and private sectors... ". And, on Michael Dombeck's first day as Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, he proudly declared "Francis Pandolfi will serve as my Chief of Staff. Mr. Pandolfi comes with very broad experience ... including Chairman of the Recreation Roundtable...."

Perhaps ARC's greatest influence upon the future of recreation will be through its advisory position on the National Forest Foundation (NFF) Quoting from NFF's www homepage "The National Forest Foundation, created by the U.S. Congress, is the official nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service ... The Foundation attracts corporate sponsors, other foundations and individuals with the incentive of matching funds that are made available from Congress. In addition, the Foundation is soliciting funds from the private sector to match the challenge cost-share program of the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service is prohibited by law from soliciting outside funding and the Foundation is expressly permitted to fulfill that function."

The National Forest Foundation is truly an amazing 'loophole', a government-sanctioned private foundation, set up by Congress to do for the Forest Service what the Forest Service itself may not do legally... to attract corporate sponsors and partners.

The NFF represents big business and extractive industries. NFF's Chairman is a merchant banker, its Vice-Chairman is a petroleum executive and its Secretary is a cattle rancher. American Recreation Coalition President, Derrick Crandall, sits on NFF's National Advisory Board.

Mr. Crandall is a man with many hats. In addition to being President and CEO of ARC and sitting on NFF's Advisory Board, Crandall also is the Executive Vice President of the Recreation Roundtable. "The Recreation Roundtable was formed in 1989 to provide a key group of creative outdoor recreation industry CEO's with a forum for discussions regarding public policies affecting recreation and to serve as a catalyst for partnership actions which enhance recreation opportunities in America...".

The Recreation Roundtable has established what they call an "exciting annual program called Partners Outdoors, now in its sixth year, which unites carefully picked federal officials likely to rise to the highest ranks of their agencies with recreation industry officials to discuss trends and challenges and to craft action plans to serve our common customers." Partners Outdoors is a prime example of how big corporations are going about the task of setting future recreation policy in America.

And, finally, the Recreation Roundtable website says, "Among its present priorities are responding forcefully to proposals for a federal tax on a wide range of recreation products to support state non-game wildlife proposals." In ARC's world view, government policy mustn't do anything to jeopardize the sale of RV's, jet skis, motorcycles, ATV's, motor boats or snowmobiles. Is this why, (at least in Central Oregon, where I live) the Fee Demonstration Program has targeted only hikers, picnickers, stream fishermen and similar non-motorized recreationists?

Challenge Cost-Share Partnerships are relationships in which the government provides some money for a particular project and a partner(s) provides the rest. In the case of the Fee Demonstration Program, American Recreation Coalition is the partner helping foot the bill for the program's implementation.

Quoting from the U.S. Forest Service literature which describes this program (ref.: March 1997 ; FS-597) " The Forest Service's Recreation Fee Demonstration Program was developed in partnership with leading national recreation interests. Its implementation is occurring through a Challenge Cost-Share partnership with the American Recreation Coalition (ARC). ARC's efforts will include explanation of the fee program to the recreation industry and recreation enthusiasts, as well as assistance in evaluation of the demonstration projects. For further information on ARC's efforts, contact ARC at ...."

As always, ARC has positioned itself perfectly. In financing this demonstration fee program, ARC has bought the right to evaluate the program upon its termination and then to report to Congress on how the public liked it. ARC, in exchange for its financial contribution, also gets to assist Congress in crafting the Permanent Recreation Fee System which will certainly follow.

 

Kodak Photo Stop

 

Who cares what ARC tells Congress, you might ask? If you're a backcountry hiker, bird-watcher, fisherman or even just a picnicker who enjoys the unspoiled outdoors as a place in which to escape from the world of corporate driven commercialism and consumerism, then you had better take serious note of what ARC envisions for the future of recreation on America's public lands. The most complete source for information on ARC's interests is ARC's own www site.

The goals of ARC, and it's Congressional allies, can be summarized in three words: Motorize, Commercialize and Privatize. To illustrate this point using just one single example, consider the following text from ARC's website:

"On June 13, 1995 members of the American Recreation Coalition and guests discussed the merit of a proposal to create a National Recreation Lakes Program ... Present public policies often do not encourage maximum recreational enjoyment of these lakes or adequately acknowledge current recreational uses of the lakes and their surroundings... To remedy these challenges and to stimulate consensus among public and private organizations with an interest in shaping recreational opportunities in the vicinity of these lakes, federal agencies and states would be invited to seek voluntary designation by the Secretary of the Interior as national recreation lakes. Designation would be dependent upon a management plan supported by the public and relevant public agencies. Such a plan would address such issues including: maintaining and improving access for current visitors, development of appropriate recreational facilities (typically through public/ private partnerships), management of diverse uses of the lake and its surroundings (including fisheries management plan) and special zoning and taxation policies. Emphasis would be on encouraging appropriate private sector investment in water-dependent recreational enterprises".
With just a little reading between the lines, ARC's statement says so very much; no future restrictions on motorized water-craft, no federal control of lake fisheries, privatization of public property, land-use planning exemptions, corporate tax breaks, and control of surrounding lands for other motorized uses. ARC's proposal includes something for each and every ARC corporate member. Many similar policy statements and proposals, covering the entire range of recreational settings and experiences, can be found at ARC's website.

As the Executive Director of Wild Wilderness, a group whose mission is 'to maintain and enhance opportunities for undeveloped recreation,' I have a problem with American Recreation Coalition and its agenda. For this reason I have chosen to engage in a bit of civil disobedience and to boycott the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program. To encourage others who might wish to follow suit, Wild Wilderness has produced windshield stickers that trailhead users can display instead of those available from ARC and its government partners. The Wild Wilderness sticker consists of a circle and slash symbol on which is written the words "Trail Fee". We don't guarantee that you won't be ticketed for your disobedience, but if enough people protest this fee, we might make a difference. It is up to the public to put a stop to further privatization of our National Heritage. Once it's sold, it's gone forever. Let's stop ARC and its accomplices before it's too late. Please boycott this program.

 

You're Going to Take It!

 

 


This document was prepared by Wild Wilderness. To learn more about ongoing industry-backed congressional efforts to motorize, commercialize, and privatize America's public lands, contact:

Scott Silver, Executive Director,
248 NW Wilmington Avenue,  Bend  OR 97701
Phone (541) 385-5261    E-mail: ssilver@wildwilderness.org