Recreation in the 21st Century: Increasing Demand, Increasing Recognition
Idaho Governors Tourism Conference

Remarks of
The Honorable James R. Lyons
Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment
Washington, D.C.

May 9, 1997


(Slide-cover VISIT US logo)

Of late, there has been much discussion about the value and purpose of public lands.

Today, I want to focus on an area where I find broad agreement.  Whether I'm addressing a tourism conference like here today, a hikers club, or a local forest dependent community.  Again and again, I find people agree on the unique benefits and values that surround our Nation's national forests.

What is it then, that we all love about our national forests?  Isn't it that we like the very sight, sounds, and smells?

National forests are the backdrops to many of our Nation's communities and, as that, communities want "HEALTHY FORESTS, QUALITY SETTINGS, AND SPECTACULAR SCENERY".

Sustaining and promoting ecosystem health is vital to the Forest Service's mission.  EQUALLY vital is the second half of our name, "SERVICE".  In fact, it is the SERVICE to the American people that is the future of this agency.

As we look ahead into this next century, ecosystem health is vital if we are to connect people, their interests, quality recreation settings, and the forest's spectacular scenery.

Indeed, recreation is the window from which most Americans view their national forests.

Today, I want to focus on the future of Forest Service recreation programs--to offer a vision of what can be in the not so distant future.

I believe we've accomplished a great deal during our tenure in office.  But, for me, what's most exciting is the work that's yet to be done.  The challenges that we can transform into opportunities.

I'd like to share with you my vision of recreation on the national forests in the 21st century.


The national forests are all about special places...

About natural settings...

And, connecting people and special places, for our physical and mental health and well-being...

The Forest Service  has  products, services, and experiences that directly benefit rural economies and, more and more, benefit the residents and the economies of suburban and urban environs...

Through increased collaboration between the national forests, community leaders, and the private sector, national forests can increasingly provide the resources and experiences that fuel the engine of economic growth and a sustainable future for rural economies...

BUT, we have to begin to recognize (rural communities, private industries, the Forest Service, and CONGRESS) that today's rural communities are not timber dependent but forest dependent...

Dependent on forests for a wide variety of experiences,

...of good and services,

...and recreation, and

...tourism opportunities.

Today, our national forests provide multiple benefits for individuals, communities, their economies, and the environment.

The resources and expertise represented in the Forest Service are very effective at satisfying the multiple-use mandate we have for our public lands.  We can demonstrate this fact best when we realize that, in addition to all of the natural resource extraction on Forest Service lands--from timber to coal to oil to gas and son on, the Forest Service is the world's largest supplier of outdoor recreation with over 800 million visitor days annually.  This is almost 50 percent of all recreation visits on our Nation's public lands.

(picture slide)


We know from our data that the economic impact from recreation is greater than the economic impact from the natural resources we extract from our lands; and, it equals well over 1 percent of our Gross Domestic Product!  If we can increase this benefit, the social, economic, and political impact on our nation can be even more significant.

Look at these numbers from the Forest Service's own strategic planning document, the 1996 Resources Planning Act required by law, and updated every 5 years to set direction for forestry policies and programs.

Look at what the numbers say for the future of our national forests...


This is not to say that the resource extraction process should be discontinued; but it implies to us that a strengthening of the recreation opportunities on federally-managed public lands can have a growing and significant impact on local and regional economies;

(Roper slide)

and, we know from a recent national survey conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide that recreation has three other important benefits:

 1.  Recreation plays a key role in strengthening family values.

 2.  Recreation improves peoples' physical and mental health.

 3.  Recreation improves peoples' appreciation of the environment, thus making them more concerned stewards for these valuable resources.

In a society marked by rapidly advancing technology, growing stress, and time constraints, Americans clearly value having time away from it all.  The Roper data shows that Americans are placing an increasing emphasis on the leisure portions of their lives, and they have a high regard for outdoor recreation as a leisure outlet.  Whether or not they choose to participate in recreational activities frequently, the public overwhelmingly believes recreation leads to positive social benefits.  Whether for health, fun, family togetherness, or as an environmental teaching tool, people understand the benefits of recreation to individuals, families, and society as a whole.

OUR CHALLENGE is to find new ways to respond to the recreation demands which the Forest Service faces so that we can continue to provide a high quality outdoor recreation experience for our customers, protect the resources upon which our customers depend, and benefit local economies through prudent investments in the recreation estate.

We face some immediate and substantial challenges in this regard.

(Discuss facilities maintenance backlog, trails, and staffing problems)

But, these challenges do afford us opportunities to explore new ways of doing business...

(slide "Opportunities to enhance the recreation estate")

Opportunities to enhance partnerships with the private sector...

(slide "In partnership with the private sector")

Opportunities to market our recreation products...

(Slide "Improve marketing")

And make the Forest Service "BRAND NAME" stand for high quality outdoor recreation experiences, synonymous with our mission as an agency "Caring for the Land and Serving People", and equal--in the public's eye--to the kind of quality one comes to expect out of a...

 Coleman stove, or an
 REI parka, or a
 day at Disneyworld, or a
 run down one of the ski trails at Sun Valley

(slide -- picture of lake overlook)

To me the opportunity is clear:  we want to make the Forest Service into the Microsoft of outdoor recreation, and we've already got a good start at doing just that because, as I said earlier, the Forest Service is the world's largest supplier of outdoor recreation annually.  Providing near 50 percent of all that takes place on the Nation's Federal Estate.

And we've got some find brands such as:
(Slides, Logos with bullets)


With more than 192 million acres of majestic mountains, deep rugged canyons, pristine high lakes, wild rivers, immense forests and open meadows, national forests provide the largest variety of outdoor tourism and recreation in America.

*43 percent of recreational use on the federal estate.

*More than 800 million visits each year.


National forests are special places in special settings.

Specially designated areas include:

 o 19 National Recreation Areas
 o 7 National Scenic Areas
 o 4 National Monuments
 o 133 Scenic Byways

National forests are museums of America's heritage.

Over 100,000 heritage sites represent 10,000 years of human history.


Whether it's the thrill of whitewater rafting, the peace of calm water floating, or canoeing in pristine waters, rivers are a major draw for tourism.  We manage 2/3 of the rivers in the Wild & Scenic River System & created the white water venue for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.


National forests hold more than half the country's network of trails, over 133,000 miles for hiking, riding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.


Over 60 percent of all skiing and boarding in the U.S. occurs on the 130 ski areas that operate on the national forests.  And, with Sun Valley Corporation and Earl Holding, we’re partnering to create the venue for the premier events in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the downhill and the Super G.


Camping, picnicking, and other day-use activities are longtime recreation favorites.  More than one-half of the 2.1 million visitor capacity is provided by our private recreation service partners.

Much of the tourism and recreation use in the national forests and grasslands is carried out by nearly 2,000 private recreation service providers, which enhance local economies by 12 billion in sales.

For the Forest Service, think of the opportunities...

 To serve our customers better.

 To change public perception of the Forest Service, what we do, and how we do it.
 And to enhance our ability to supplement the resources we get from  Congress to manage the nation forests, all as a part of

 Fulfilling the agency's mission better, more efficiently, and with greater cost saving to our shareholders--the American-taxpayer.

I want this logo----the BRAND NAME--to be synonymous with high quality outdoor recreation experience for all who enjoy our national forests...

As I said, the benefits to the public, communities, and the agency are many because...


So, my vision of the future for national forest recreation is an ambitious, and perhaps, a less traditional one.

And, if we're to get there, we'll need your help.

Recreation is the window from which most Americans view the Forest Service.

Recreation driven economies are directly tied to healthy forests.  The recreation contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) requires us to recognize the need to promote healthy forests.

We need to do a better job of explaining the inseparable tie between the "Human Dimension" of, and the "protection and enhancement" of the ecosystem.  A healthy environment benefits outdoor recreation, which in turn directly benefits individuals and families, which in turn benefits the economy.  Municipal economic development specialists have long recognized these benefits.  Individual well-being IS inseparable from both healthy ecosystems and economies.

We owe it to YOU, our partners, to help see that the health of the tourism and the associated recreation industry is directly linked to "healthy forests, quality settings, and spectacular scenery."

Here in Idaho, you have an incredible example of just how national forests can play a significant role in the travel and tourism economy.  Your State hosts a number of quality downhill ski areas, like Sun Valley, outfitted recreation opportunities for white water, fishing, and hunting, only to name a few examples.

You have some of our most unique trails.  Including one of our four national scenic/historic trails, the Nez Perce/NeeMePoo trail which follows the flight of Chief Joseph.

Another historic example includes The "Route of the Hiawatha" Rail-trail.


This trail follows the abandoned Milwaukee railroad grade between Avery, Idaho, and St. Regis, Montana.  Crossing the rugged Bitterroot Mountains, the 45-mile route winds through eleven tunnels and over nine high, steel trestles.  The trail is best known for the 1.8 mile St. Paul Pass or "Taft" Tunnel, which burrows under the stateline divide.

Ranked as the top priority for rail-trail development by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, the Route of the Hiawatha is considered by many to be one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the northwest.  Even by today's standards, it remains an engineering feat.


Over the past 3 years, dozens of agencies, businesses, and individuals from Idaho, Washington, and Montana have been working together to make this  a reality.  Community support for the project has been tremendous, particularly from the Silver Valley and the Taft Tunnel Preservation Society.  The Forest Service, Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, North Idaho College, Intermountain Forest Industry Associates, MilWest, and many others have contributed materials, equipment, funding, and thousands of hours toward the project.


This hard work and collaboration is producing results!  In just a few weeks (early June), construction and repair work will begin on the Idaho portion of the trail.  By next summer, mountain bicyclists and hikers will be able to enjoy 13 miles along the most scenic portion of the route.

Once finished, the rail-trail will have portions open to mountain bicycles, hikers, wheelchair users, and motorists.

Expected to draw at least 20,000 visitors a year, the trail promises to be a key tourism attraction .  When combined with the other recreation attractions in the area, the trail will play a major role in the economic development of north Idaho .


I am currently working with the Forest Service, our partners, and the DOT, to explore ways through the renewal of ICTEA Legislation to address the problem of low-standard roads as well as the need for more recreation trails.

Through this effort, I hope to see us take many of the high-erosion, low standard roads and put them to rest.  When possible, converting them into recreation corridors; creating tourism attractions like the Rail-to-trail I've sited.

Another outstanding example of tourism based partnerships is "Passport in time".  Which has a display set up here at your conference.

Whether it's archaeological excavation, restoring a historic lookout tower, or collecting oral histories, vacation-based "Passport In Time" volunteers have a great time helping their national forests preserve and protect our past.

Passport In Time has gained strong support from recreationists seeking ecology/education-based opportunities, and has even inspired a citizens' action group called Friends of PIT who have worked vigorously to support the Forest Service among the professional and amateur archaeology communities, Congress, and other public agencies.

A lot of folks dream of being an archaeologist!  PIT gives them that chance and they complete projects and research on the national forests and grasslands that otherwise would not be funded.

Examples, here in Idaho, upcoming this season include:

YOU could get involved in archaeological excavations at a Chinese placer mine near Idaho City;

Or excavations at a prehistoric fishing camp in the meadows along Bear Valley Creek;

Or a project for metal detectors near Wallace, Idaho and a project to renovate the old brick kiln near Little Bayhorse Lake.

Here in Idaho, we’ve had tens of thousands of volunteer hours contributed to excavation, restoration, interpretation, and inventory projects by families and individuals who are helping to preserve Idaho’s past while enjoying their National Forests.

*Close by again noting the display and encouraging folks to be in contact with their local national forest.

"I've included a "VISIT US" publication with a regional directory in your conference notebooks.  We encourage you to foster partnerships with US

Thank you.


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