USFS Tries Marketing the Sunset

The Recreation Agenda Dilemma
How to get the public to BUY. . .
. . . what the USFS would like to SELL.

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.


USFS Pays $250,000 to "Market" Public Lands

Introductory Comment

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!

Direct Quote

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
* Organization focused rather than strategy focused
* Product focused rather than customer focused

** 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."



USFS Explores How Best to "Market" Public Lands

Introductory Comment

A US Forest Service News Release recently announced: "Team Applies Marketing Concepts to Forest Service Programs."

The announcement read:

"According to Shulman, marketing is a broad and powerful business tool. It includes consumer research, data analysis, market definition, product quality, customer service, pricing, investment priorities and communication -- all focused on developing the best possible experience for the customer.

That's why a team of Forest Service employees from across the country is working with Shulman to learn marketing techniques and principles and how they might apply to Forest Service programs. Called the Marketing Resource Group, it hopes to demonstrate that marketing significantly improves the Forest Service's ability to listen to customers and provide goods, services and experiences that meet their needs. Ultimately, the group will work with managers and staff of other programs to explore where and how marketing methods can best be used.

Marketing the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program is at the top of the group's list."


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.


Direct Quote

(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.



User Fees are "Critical" to USFS

Introductory Comment

About a year ago, I wrote an essay titled: "The Forest Service Will Never be More Defenseless."

It began with the words:

"From now until the end of the year, the Forest Service will be molting. Until their new shell hardens, they will be uncharacteristically vulnerable and thus will be doing all they can to keep the environmental community generally distracted with positive sounding rhetoric. They may even have some believing they are preparing to become good land stewards, but don't be fooled. They are simply trying to survive until their metamorphosis is complete."

... and ended with the words:

"Unless the American public has clearly rejected the Pay-for-Play model, Congress will grant the Forest Service expanded and permanent authorization for the collection of recreational user-fees. If that happens, then the Forest Service's metamorphosis will have been completed successfully and they can proceed with a clear mandate to convert public land recreation into the Extractive Industry for the 21st Century and beyond. "


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!

Direct Quote

(FROM: "USDA Forest Service Recreation Marketing Plan Proposal-RFP-98-10 : May 6, 1998")

Description / Specification / Work Statement


This project is to assist the USDA Forest Service in improving the effectiveness of management of Forest Service recreation, using modern marketing driven customer oriented techniques. Using the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, develop a formal marketing plan to manage elements of this activity and its implementation that will strengthen the Forest Service's financial resources, ensure consistency, and provide better service to our customers.

Fee test sites are located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico...

Outdoor recreation is an issue of interest to most Americans and it has significant social, economic and political value. The USDA Forest Service is the world's largest supplier of outdoor recreation opportunities. It is, in fact, the Proctor & Gamble of outdoor recreation with the strongest outdoor recreation brands in the world. The Forest Service need to strengthen its assets in a way that recognizes their true value. Further more, demand is expected to grow dramatically in a financially constrained environment and the agency must be prepared for this challenge. Additionally, the Forest Service is beginning to charge fees for its recreation opportunities and it is critical that this program is successful. Therefore, the Forest Service must improve the effectiveness of the management of Forest Service recreation, using modern marketing techniques. By so doing, the Forest Service's financial resources to manage recreation activities to provide better service to customers will be strengthened...

... The Contractor shall achieve the following goals:

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.



User Fees:   $3 Today -- $100 Tomorrow

Introductory Comment

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.


Direct Quote

From: FOCUS GROUP GUIDE - FOREST SERVICE. A faxed document from Robert Shulman - Dated Jan. 18, 1999


** UNIVERSAL PASS (general discussion)

* One pass good for almost all national forest facilities and services in WA and OR - $50-$100 per year


* State by state passes -- good for only the NF in one state

* 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



Fee-Demo is - "Just the Thin Edge of the Wedge"

Introductory Comment

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!


Direct Quote

(((begin condensed quoted Forest Service Report)))


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....

Product line describes the array of recreational opportunities produced through the combination of natural resources and capital inputs with human effort and management. To design the product line, the following information is needed: ...

* 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.) ...


In essence, targeting refers to the selection of client groups in the marketing process. Target markets are homogeneous groups of people or organizations possessing similar service preferences with whom the agency seeks exchange/transfer....


In a marketing-driven organization, we develop a product based on knowledge of what the customer wants, then we have to tell them we have it. In a public lands context this is a broader issue than with single product marketing because agencies must balance all uses and ipso facto, communications must take on this complexity, e.g., might need to explain to potential users why they can't do some activities or explain the potentially disruptive other users they might encounter. A communications plan focuses on reach and frequency. Reaching the identified target audience with the highest frequency possible.