ARC’s Crandall Reporting on Natl. Rec Meeting
Editor’s Note: The following report comes from Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARVC).
The leadership of seven federal agencies met for a full day on April 29 in Washington to determine priorities for FY2013-14 and discuss AGO.2 – the second term AGO efforts and the likely active involvement of new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
The meeting was chaired by the current chair of the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR), Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. Other key participants included Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes, the AGO senior counselor team (CEQ’s Jay Jensen, USDA’s Robert Bonnie, DOI’s Will Shafroth and USACE’s Mary Coulombe), Acting BLM Director Neil Kornze, USFWS Deputy Director Steve Guertin, USACE Chief of Operations James Hannon, Bureau of Reclamation Acting Deputy Commissioner Dionne Thompson and NOAA Assistant Administrator Dr. Holly Bamford.
The meeting opened with comments by David Hayes who told the group that Sally Jewell “will be great for outdoor recreation” and emphasized the support within the Administration for the AGO agenda of landscape-scale conservation, youth connection to the outdoors, rivers and recreation. In a message repeated by other senior Administration officials during the day, he called for tangible achievements and action. He noted the recent Congressional action to prevent furloughs at the FAA and warned that federal programs which are “unseen and unloved are forgotten” and will fare poorly.
Each of the agency leads then shared ideas and news of recent, relevant activity. I was heartened by Jon Jarvis’ remarks. He noted that Stephen Mather “was a marketing guy who had built the 20-mule team Borax brand, and then went to work on a campaign for national parks, enlisting the nation’s top artists and politicians and news media to build a constituency for parks.” He told the group that we faced the need to take similar actions to rebuild the parks constituency as we approach 2016, and pledged a “big tent” effort which would benefit all federal land and water managers and state and local park programs. He outlined the Grey effort, noting that it was being done without appropriated funds through the National Park Foundation, and described the advisory committee charged with helping to guide Grey and the overall NPS centennial effort. He told the group that we have great opportunities, including relating federal great outdoors programs to health, education and more.
I was invited to be part of a three-person panel which really marked FICOR’s initial outreach to external partners. Joining me was Kirk Bailey of the Outdoor Industry Association and Aaron Wodin-Schwartz of BrandUSA. I was specifically asked to: (1) share the findings of the research done in June 2012 of likely voters regarding national parks and the Great Outdoors and what the results mean for FICOR agencies and (2) details on the efforts we have underway on sustainable supplemental funding for parks and the Great Outdoors. I used my invitation to also raise the issue of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, and the ideas raised in the April 25 letter urging a policymaker-level engagement on FLREA with key constituents in recreation and tourism. My presentation is attached.
I’m delighted to tell you that there is very high interest in our messages. There were many questions on the use of the “hot buttons” detected in the Hart/Northstar survey. I explained that the universal support for parks was achieved in part by stressing different attributes of parks. Those who self-identified as Democrats generally showed high interest in protection of landscapes and wildlife, while self-identified Republicans showed a somewhat higher interest in parks as vacation and recreation locations for kids and families and as ways to our history and heritage.
Study: Park Label
I explained to the group that our study referenced national parks but that we are aware that Americans frequently apply a “park” label to attractive natural areas, regardless of the managing agency or Congressionally applied name. We spent time discussing the merits of trying to improve the accuracy of the public’s understanding of management roles – I strongly urged them to instead focus on telling stories and using the stories and partners to yield information on agency identities.
I raised the FLREA issue, noting that it was an important revenue stream today and could be a bigger stream in the future – but that reauthorization of the legislation faced “bumps” and would miss an opportunity to consider significant improvements in fee efforts – from pricing that reflected demand to lower cost and higher convenience fee collection processes to aggressive imbedding of fees into vacation packages sold online and by travel brokers. Most importantly, I told the FICOR principals that they needed to become involved as policymakers, meeting with park and recreation interests, to build a unified force on fees.
Lunch followed, and I had informal discussions with Jon Jarvis, Tom Tidwell, Neil Kornze and others. I was delighted when Tom Tidwell asked when we would be ready to actually have Airstream Villages in FS campgrounds – remembering the message we delivered several years ago that campers wanted choices other than bring your own RV or tent. Neil asked how we could have “virtual passports” for kids to cater to an agency that has few visitor centers, in an era when smartphones know exactly where they are and can record visits digitally. My sense is that we have never had more opportunity to get action, to establish new partnerships and to change a downhill spiral in agency-funded efforts into a positive trajectory through private investment and operation, through joint marketing and promotion and through a shared commitment to making the Great Outdoors relevant to all Americans.