The success of the USFS Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is critical to the long term survival of the US Forest Service. Chief Michael Dombeck, having already bet the ranch on "Pay-to-Play" recreation, must do whatever it takes to make this strategy succeed.
Unfortunately for the Forest Service, the American public is not cooperating. Recreationists, conservationists and others have rejected the fee-demo program. They are making it painfully clear that they are the owners of public lands and not "customers" as federal managers now refer to them.
In a desperate move, Chief Dombeck hired a high priced marketing consultant to help sell the fee-demo program to the American public.
It is only after an extremely lengthy delay, did the US Forest Service provide Wild Wilderness with materials requested under authority of the Freedom of Information Act. These materials document the current efforts of the USFS to apply "Scientific Marketing Techniques" to outdoor recreation.
What they really show, is the depths to which the US Forest Service will stoop in order to create an economically sustainable future for themselves. The USFS intends to become the World's Greatest Provider of Outdoor Recreation Products, Services and Memorable Moments. But first, they must figure out how to get BUY-IN from an American public that rejects the underlying idea of turning raw-nature into marketable recreation-products.
What follows are five messages recently distributed to the Wild Wilderness network via e-mail. These messages consist of two parts: an introductory comment from Wild Wilderness, followed by a quote from materials obtained through the FOIA process.
I have finally received a long delayed Freedom of Information Act request from the USFS about their new "Recreation Marketing Plan". This plan is being developed for the USFS by a private consultant ( Robert S. Shulman ).
On 6/23/98, Shulman was awarded $253,971.52 for: "Services in support of a Recreation marketing Plan for the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program."
Mr. Shulman lists as "Relevant Project Experience" previous work for Disney and Universal Studios, amongst others. Shulman is billing us, the American taxpayer, $350.00 per hour for his efforts.
The following quoted passage will give you a clear indication of the direction in which Mr. Shulman has been asked to lead recreation management for the USFS. This passage comes from a document titled: "USDA Forest Service Recreation Marketing Plan Proposal-RFP-98-10 : May 6, 1998". This proposal that has been accepted and the first two projects phases have already been implemented.
This is information that I hope you will distribute widely. In addition to making this information available on the internet, I have prepared a limited number of printed packets containing approximately 30 pages selected from the FOIA. These packets are available upon request.
P.S. -- For me.... the key phrase is found in the last sentence!
The Role of Marketing at the Forest Service
** A desired outcome from the Rec. Fee Demo Program and its attendant "marketing implications" would be to have reason to expect that funds from fees could, when added to taxpayer funding, produce a marketing driven organization.
** "Marketing driven" implied that an institution listens to its constituency(s), provides goods, services and experiences that fulfill those "customers" needs and does so in such a manner that financial resources are produced that (in the case of the Forest Service) can be translated into continual improvement.
** The Mission of the Forest Service as it relates to the general public would suggest that a marketing driven orientation would far better suit its goal than any other. There appears to be evidence that suggests that the Forest Service is not marketing driving but instead some blend of :
* Internally focused rather than external
** These orientations are best summarized by the notion "build it and they will come." The Forest Service would be better served by "how can we strengthen what nature has created to enhance value so that we can charge fees, and in turn produce increasingly satisfied customers."
A US Forest Service News Release recently announced: "Team Applies Marketing Concepts to Forest Service Programs." http://www.fs.fed.us/news/today/sept99/sept3.htm.
The announcement read:
Below I have provided a passage quoted directly from Shulman's USFS Marketing Plan -- recently obtained by Wild Wilderness through FOIA.
Should a walk in the woods be thought of as a "product" and "marketed" to "customers" by a government agency trying to maximizing its "return on investment"? I think not.
The Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is at the top of the group's list BECAUSE it is the pilot program. If it fails, the entire Industrial Strength Recreation paradigm will collapses like a house of cards. We have only to make fee-demo fail to defeat those wreckreation interests promoting the Corporate Takeover of Nature.
(FROM: "USDA Forest Service Recreation Marketing Plan Proposal-RFP-98-10 : May 6, 1998")
The Goals of a Marketing Initiative at the U.S.D.A. Forest Service
** Transform the Forest Service into a marketing driven institution.
** Solidify the Forest Service's future as a recreation outlet for the US population as a result of fee for services.
** Distinguish the Forest Service product from other outdoor recreation opportunities.
**Bring about this transformation in an orderly and well-monitored fashion using the Rec. Fee Demo Program as a pilot for the "marketing initiative/transformation" that could eventually encompass the whole Service.
**Insure success by utilizing internal resources whenever possible and asking those that will implement marketing to help create the marketing plan.
** Institute a monitoring system that will measure the return on investment in this marketing initiative, financially and from the perspective of key constituencies.
About a year ago, I wrote an essay titled: "The Forest Service Will Never be More Defenseless."
It began with the words:
Today the environmental community is generally ecstatic in the wake of President Clinton's announcement that USFS roadless lands will no longer be managed for classic extraction. Is the President being completely sincere, or is he perhaps trying to protect the Forest Service for just a little longer ... until they have completed the transition from extraction to pay-to-play recreation?
Please read the following from Robert S. Shulman's "Recreation Marketing Plan" and decide for yourself if I have overstated the importance of recreation to the NEW Forest Service. Take note that Phase III of this marketing plan will be completed by December 1, 1999 and the final phase is scheduled for completion in June 2000.
We have less than a year to demonstrate that Pay-to-Play recreation is NOT what the public wants or believes to be good our nation's public lands. Failing to do this, we can expect the Forest Service's metamorphosis will be successfully completed and we can look forward to Industrial Strength Recreation being THE public lands issue for the 21st Century.
PS.... what follows is, I hope, going to be an eye-opener. Please spread this information widely and please do not let Mr. Shulman accomplish his marketing objectives without putting up a fight!
(FROM: "USDA Forest Service Recreation Marketing Plan Proposal-RFP-98-10 : May 6, 1998")
Description / Specification / Work Statement
C.1) SCOPE OF WORK
C.2) PROJECT LOCATION
C.4) WORK REQUIREMENTS
1) Transform the Forest Service's Recreation Fee Demonstration Program into a program that satisfies customers.
2) Enhance the customers experience by distinguishing their Forest Service experience from other outdoor recreation opportunities...
3) Ensure customers are satisfied with the Forest Service as an outdoor recreation outlet because of fees for services. The contractor shall ensure that the customers who pay fees are satisfied with their experience.
4) Use Forest Service personnel and resources when appropriate...
5) Institute a monitoring system that will measure the return the investment in this marketing initiative, financially and the perspective of key constituencies. The Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is a pilot program authorized by Congress. In order for the program to be successful the Forest Service need to show Congress and the public that financially this is beneficial.
Today a walk in the woods costs between $3 and $5 in forests participating in the recreation fee demonstration program. It costs $8 per person to visit Mt. St. Helens and $15 to climb Mt. Shasta (in addition to the basic $5 "walk in the woods" pass).
And .... you ain't seen nothing yet!!!!
Below is material recently obtained by FOIA that lists a few of the BRAND NEW Fee-Demo Pass options being considered by the USFS for introduction in the Spring on 2000 as part of the USFS Marketing Group's efforts.
What I find most extraordinary, is that ever since the Fee-Demo program was introduced, the MAJOR public benefit claimed by supporters of the program was that 80% of the money collected remained at the site where it was collected. This, supposedly, gave direct benefit to those who used the facilities (and paid the fee).
Please read the material quoted below and try to predict how the Forest Service plans to rationalize their 180 turn-about. Instead of nickel and diming visitors with a plethora of individual fees, the new Fee-Demo passes will have only gossamer links to the resources for which people are supposedly being charged.
Malicious rumors have recently suggested that the Forest Service is also considering offering "View the Sunset" and "Smell the Flowers" passes, both of which can be "supersized," when you pay by credit card and give your Forest Service Club Card number to the Ranger who takes your reservation at their special 1-(900)-PAY-2-PLA phone number.
From: FOCUS GROUP GUIDE - FOREST SERVICE. A faxed document from Robert Shulman - Dated Jan. 18, 1999
** UNIVERSAL PASS (general discussion)
** OTHER CONCEPTS
* Localized pass for one or a couple of forests - with an option to "supersize"
* Interagency Pass - good for facilities and services in national forests, national parks, bureau of land management lands and perhaps OR and WA state parks -- more than $100/year
* Activity Pass - good for all trails, or all wilderness, or all boat ramps, etc., -- a separate pass good for only certain activities
When it comes Recreation Fee-Demo, the Forest Service has been trying out a new marketing gimmick they've recently been taught. It's called "reach and frequency."
And... while Fee-Demo is commonly believed to be just a "DEMONSTRATION" .... don't be fooled. This is an erroneous conclusion being deliberately promulgated by a scientific marketing reach and frequency campaign.
The following is quoted from a document recently obtained by FOIA. Paper copies are available upon request. What you are about to read, is extremely disturbing!
USDA FOREST SERVICE
Recently, the Forest Service launched an effort to improve and expand marketing skills within the Forest Service beginning with recreation. The National Marketing Resource Group is an effort that involved a team of cross-sectional talented and enthusiastic Forest Service employees. In addition, the team is being guided by Robert S. Shulman, a recognized marketing expert....
In the work of the National Marketing Resource Group, (MRG) the Chief has decided to take a market driven approach (based on market science principles) in preparing the Forest Service for the future of Service wide implementation of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program....
* Compatibility of product attributes with commercial sponsorship (Coke, Subaru, etc.?)
* Conflicts between experience expectations/motivations and private recreation industry involvement
* Additional products (nonrecreational, commodity, etc.) ...