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June 8, 2007

America Outdoors E-News

Administration Proposes to Spend $3 Billion on National Parks Over the Next Ten Years Population Trends to Reshape America
Jim Caswell Nominated to Head BLM Laverty's Nomination as Assistant Secretary Put on Hold by Senator Wyden
Administration Proposes to Spend $3 Billion on
National Parks Over the Next Ten Years; Proposes Employee Exchange Program with Private Sector and 3,000 New Rangers

  President Bush and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne recently announced the President Centennial Initiative to fund "new levels of excellence" for America's national parks. The proposal includes plans for Congress to appropriate an additional $100 million per year for ten years to:
  • Hire 3,000 season rangers, guides, and maintenance workers
  • Repair buildings
  • Improve landscapes
  • Enroll children in Ranger and Web Ranger programs.
Some of the new rangers will serve as interpreters and will guide hikes, according to the document. The proposal will also give NPS a stronger role in marketing and promoting Park visitation which is steadily declining. Recreation visits are down 1.3% for the first quarter of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006.

The biggest challenge the initiative faces is finding spending offsets to accommodate the increased spending. Congress has vowed to hold the line on deficit spending and any increase must be offset by cuts elsewhere or by additional sources of revenue. New royalties on hard rock mining have been proposed. Still, Congress is resistant to committing to a ten-year spending program unless trust funds are a source of revenue.

The new goals for the national parks are organized around five themes each with a specific agenda. The five themes are:
  • Stewardship
  • Environmental Leadership
  • Recreational Experience
  • Education
  • Professional Excellence

The First Steps proposal asks for $40.6 million in funding for 2008 to hire 3,000 new seasonal rangers and guides for interpretation, resource protection, and maintenance. An additional $35 million will increase cyclic maintenance and $10 million will be dedicated to historic structures. $1 million will be used to make connections between youth and national parks through a Junior Ranger and Web Ranger program. $20 million more will be used to fund cultural and natural resource protection and preservation.

The Centennial Challenge proposes to match $100 million in federal funding with $100 million or more in cash donations through the National Park Centennial Challenge Act.

For concessioners and outfitters there are some interesting proposals. The Environment Leadership theme proposes to establish programs to showcase exemplary environmental practices and increased visitor awareness of the how those practices apply to daily lives. This education will probably involve a higher level of interpretation to include information on subjects such as climate change. Use of alternative fuels will also be promoted and each park will be required to reduce impacts on air and water quality.

One of the more interesting proposals for concessioners and outfitters is the employee exchange program that will embed NPS employees in private sector operations to familiarize them with the private sector practices.

Another important new focus is the addition of a strong "recreation" initiative, which was conspicuously absent from the new Park Management Policies that focused mostly on the NPS' preservation mission. Among the proposals are to:

  • Increase visitation at lesser known parks by 25% through a national tourism effort;
  • Rehabilitate over 2,000 miles of trails within or connected to national parks;
  • Increase the number of visitors that attend ranger-facilitated programs such as campfire talks, hikes, and school programs;
  • " Promote a "Get Outdoors America" campaign to encourage invigorating outdoor activity.
Population Trends to Reshape America
  The American population is expected to grow dramatically over the next 40 years and the ethnic composition will change dramatically. Predicting future demographic conditions is about as reliable as 50-year weather forecasts. During the early eighties demographers were predicting population declines and did not foresee the impact of immigration and increased life expectancy on population growth. Some demographers predict that the world population will peak in 2070 and began to decline although others dispute that forecast, according to nature.com The current forecast for the U.S. population is based on current trends as reported in the NPS Centennial Report to the President.
  • The population will increase by 40% from 300 million today to 420 million in 2050.
  • The Hispanic population will grow from 13% to 25%.
  • The African American population is expected to grow by 2% and the percent of white Americans will decline by 10%.
  • The number of Americans between the ages of 65 and 84 will increase by 115% and the number over 85 will increase by 390%.
  • By 2025 75% of the populations will live within 100 miles of the coast.
  • Today's young people spend an average of 6.5 hours a day using electronic media. 70% of their mothers played outdoors everyday compared with 31% of their children.
Jim Caswell Nominated to Head BLM
  The former forest supervisor for the Clearwater and Targhee National Forests in Idaho has been nominated by the Bush administration to serve as Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Caswell currently heads the Idaho Office of Species Conservation which coordinates state endangered species policy. The Senate must confirm the nomination. The BLM director position has been vacant since Kathleen Clarke left the post in February. Caswell is well known and highly regarded by outfitters in Idaho.
Laverty's Nomination as Assistant Secretary Put on Hold by Senator Wyden
  Lyle Laverty, who was nominated by the Bush Administration to serve as the next Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, was buffeted at his confirmation in May by two Democratic Senators over ethical issues. Laverty was challenged by Senator Wyden (D-OR) and Jon Tester (D-MT) over the purchase of a horse when he was Director of Colorado State Parks. The horse was purchased by state parks to be used for Laverty to ride to make connections with the riding community and a group that donated funds to the parks. After controversy developed over the purchase of the horse, Laverty sold it to his son-in-law for exactly what the state paid for it -- $5,000. Tester thinks the horse should have been put out for bid. Laverty was also criticized for a couple of foreign trips made during his tenure. Laverty said he is on many national boards and state funds were not used to pay for overseas trips. The parks division is being audited after accounting problems that were revealed by Great Outdoors Colorado, the trust that disburses lottery funds.

Other Senators on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee supported Laverty, including Senator Salazar (D-CO) and parks board members. Tom Glass said Laverty was "a big picture guy who was a very good thing for state parks". Attendance to Colorado State Parks rose by 7.6% during Laverty's tenure while he coped with a 20% decrease in funding.
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