The following document is a statement from Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) pertaining to a recreation "Super-Bill" which he hopes will be enacted by the close of the 105th Congress. Cloaked in flowery rhetoric, this legislation is a Trojan Horse that conservationists as well as traditional recreationists will want to vigorously oppose. Senator Murkowski's legislation has been developed in close cooperation with the recreation industry sponsored, pro-'wise-use', American Recreation Coalition. The real purpose of this legislation is to motorize, commercialize and privatize America's remaining unspoiled mountains, lakes and trails.

A limited number of explanatory endnotes have been included as an aid to cutting through this subterfuge. Additional information can be obtained directly from Wild Wilderness.


Statement of Chairman Frank H. Murkowski (note 1) Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee American Outdoors Initiative

The work of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources touches the lives of Americans in many ways -- but few ways more visibly than in our oversight of the nation's great outdoors. Federal agencies manage some one in three acres of the nation as national parks and forests, as wildlife refuges, and under other public land categories. One in every two Americans engaged in outdoor recreation at least monthly - making nearly two billion visits annually to federally administered sites alone. Sixty percent of all downhill skiing in the nation occurs at ski areas operating on Forest Service land; similarly large percentages of such activities as white water rafting, fishing and hiking occur on federally administered lands. Facilities, services, and policies on federal lands are of direct interest to the nation's 64 million campers and 76 million boaters; to our 60 million anglers and 24 million of us who paddle canoes, kayaks and rafts to 26 million mountain bike owners and millions of skiers, snowmobilers, hunters, and ORV enthusiasts.

Recreation expenditures now total some $350 billion annually, or some 10.5% of all consumer spending. Spending on recreation has increased steadily from 1980, when it represented about 6.5% of all consumer spending. And federal lands and waters have had a major impact on this spending. In the year 2000, Forest Service Programs will contribute an estimated $130.7 billion to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - 74.8% of which will be generated by recreation. In addition, the agency expects both its economic contributions and the percentage of those credited to recreation to rise through the 21st Century so that 78.3% of its economic activity will derive from recreation.

In the 104th Congress we took important steps to enhance recreation opportunities in America. We emphasized the importance by adding recreation to the title of a key subcommittee and worked with the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to authorize a recreation fee demonstration program designed to test out new mechanisms and new fee programs which can continue and expand recreation opportunities on public lands and waters managed by federal agencies (note 2). We enacted an omnibus bill with numerous recreation program enhancements, including simplification of the computation of payments by ski area permit holders, authority for an innovative management of the Presidio in San Francisco and the creation of a National Recreation Lakes Commission. The commission has one year to review and recommend means to enhance recreation opportunities at and around an estimated 2,100 federally managed man-made lakes, Managed by such agencies as the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Forest Service, the majority of these lakes lack adequate public access or recreation facilities, ranging from campgrounds to boat ramps and marinas to lodges (note 3).

Yet we heard from many who suggested that the health of the recreation industry and the expanding number of visits to federal recreation sites disguised important trends. America's kids are participating less in traditional outdoor activities -- participation in hiking and camping, fishing and skiing is down by double digits from previous generations at comparable ages. And Americans are becoming less content with their overall lives. That is except for Americans who are regular participants in outdoor recreation, who are notably happier and more content with their lives because they have found ways to reduce stress and tension in their lives.

For the 105th Congress, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources plans an ambitious recreation initiative which will search for creative ways to accomplish three key goals:

The Republican Party has a proud tradition of leadership on recreation and conservation issues. Teddy Roosevelt was clearly the President more responsible for today's national lands systems of parks and forests. The Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund, which has tremendously boosted fishing and boating opportunities since its 1984 creation, has been championed by our party. Similarly, our party took the lead in advocating a National Scenic Byways Program, increasing the access and quality of experiences for tens of millions of Americans who visit such corridors as the Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 1 through Big Sur. Republican members of our committee will challenge themselves, our Democratic counterparts, and the nation's recreation and conservation community leaders to join together in continuing that tradition.

Our initial efforts will be a series of bipartisan committee-sponsored workshops, led by respected leaders of the conservation and recreation community and involving both organizations traditionally active before our committee and new interests with special interest in the needs of kids growing up in America's cities (note 4) and with an ability to tell us more about ways to keep the outdoors relevant to Americans in the generations to come (note 5). The workshops are expected to consider a range of existing and proposed programs and to develop a strategy which deals not just with nuts and bolts but with new visions for dramatic progress that reflect the nation's views on federal responsibilities, on partnerships with the private sector, and on volunteerism.

To understand what is possible, we need only look to the Forest Service. In the first half of the 1980's budget cutbacks forced the closure of many forest campgrounds and reduced seasons of operation at virtually all others. Beginning in 1987, the agency initiated a program to replace its direct campground management with concession operations. In 1996, 70% of all camping in the forests occurred at concessioned campgrounds and campers are benefiting from improved conditions, longer seasons, and a national reservation system. And the general public also benefits, from the lower operating costs of the Forest Service. (note 6)

Among the topics we will invite the workshops to address are: recreation fees on public lands; ways to rejuvenate the state side of the Land and Water Conservation Fund; the basis for on-going partnerships between federal agencies and businesses willing to invest in facilities on federal lands to serve visitors; criteria for judging the value of proposed additions to national systems and estimating the additional baseline costs involved; means to facilitate the exchange of federal lands for higher-valued properties; and innovative ways to expand public recreation opportunities on public lands.

We hope to have information from the workshops to allow us to introduce legislation by April and begin hearings in May of 1997. Our initiative will invite broad public participation. We will reach America's outdoor enthusiasts with articles and editorials in key specialty magazines reaching millions of households as well as through electronic and cyber channels. Our goals include landmark legislation enacted by the close of the 105th Congress.


Endnotes

(note 1): "In the 2nd session of the 104th Congress, a number of senators moderated their anti-environmental voting pattern. Sen. Murkowski, leader of the Senate Committee charged with the stewardship of the nation's public lands stuck to his extreme anti-environmental agenda. Chairman Murkowski received a "perfect" zero from the League of Conservation Voters..." (background on Murkowski from the Wilderness Society)

(note 2): The 104th Congress attempted to authorize recreation fees with legislation introduced by Rep. J. Hansen (R-Utah). (HR2107). In the words of the Natural Resources Defense Council, this bill "Would have established a fee program that emphasized visitor services at the expense of park protection." Although HR2107 was defeated, fee authorization was attached, as a rider, to the 1996 omnibus appropriation bill. One key element of Murkowski's current recreation initiative is known as the "Federal Recreation Site Visitors Enhancement Act." According to the American Recreation Coalition this act would create "permanent recreation fee authority revisions based upon the final version of HR2107 in the 104th Congress." HR2107 was denounced by the entire conservation community.

(note 3): The proposed National Recreation Lakes Program is one of the most threatening aspects of the Murkowski/ARC recreation initiative. An explanation of this act can be read at ARC's website. In the words of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, an organization leading a coalition in support of this bill (and itself an ARC member), "For industry it should mean more boat and related equipment service sales." ARC has at least 50 other corporate members who stand to derive immediate and direct benefit from this initiative, including motor-boat and jet-ski companies, resort developers, public lands concessionaires, tour operators... etc. ARC's push for, and our government's acceptance of, intensive commercial recreation development on America's public lands, is the steam roller behind this initiative. The few valuable concessions in this initiative (such as increased ability to withdraw dedicated LWCF monies) are carrots intended to mollify the conservation community. These pro-environmental concessions will, as a side effect, generate still greater profits for the commercial recreation industry.

(note 4): Wonderful Outdoor World (WOW) is one such program aimed at urban children. The sponsors of Arizona's WOW program include, in addition to the BLM, the Coleman Company, the Walt Disney Company, and the Recreation Roundtable. Coleman and Disney are both 'sustaining members' of American Recreation Coalition. The Recreation Roundtable is a direct creation of ARC and serves to further the interests of the commercial recreation industry. Data for this study was furnished by ARC.

(note 5): For those who enjoy "traditional" recreation, this statement should set off warning bells. ARC's corporate members do not represent the interests of hikers, backpackers, canoeists, backcountry skiers, bird watchers, stream fisherman, climbers and other non-consumptive forest visitors. Their corporate members make, use and sell jet-skis, snowmobiles, motorcycles, ATV's, packaged-tours, expensive lakeside resorts, Disney style recreation, RV holidays, KOA campgrounds, etc. Opportunities for the enjoyment of "traditional" recreation will be entirely supplanted by the new ARC/Murkowski paradigm.

(note 6): Wild Wilderness has charged that "congressional budget cuts are creating a deliberate maintenance crisis for federally managed recreation lands and facilities. The rescue of a decaying public system, by private investors and corporate sponsors, is the intended outcome." We find considerable support for our claim in these words by Murkowski. This is the same Murkowski who said "If the Forest Service policy won't allow that, we'll change the policy. If we have to cut off the funds to get your attention, we'll cut off the funds." (8-11-95)


Conclusion

Because, in the shared opinion of Murkowski and ARC, traditional recreational activities are no longer relevant to our children, they shall soon introduce new legislation that would facilitate the upgrading of our public lands to meet the highly consumptive needs associated with intensive commercial development and motorized sports activities. The goal of this legislation is to motorize, commercialize, and privatize as much of America's public lands as possible. A secondary goal is to maximize commercial profits for each and every one of ARC's 100+ corporate members.

Murkowski has, over many years, earned his place at the top of the list of 10 worst anti-environmentalists in Congress. Could anyone really believe that Murkowski's "Americans Outdoors Initiative" would be something other than a pro-development, anti-environmental act designed specifically to reward his financial supporters while advancing his own personal agenda? This legislation must not be allowed to pass.


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