Federal Actions

Federal Actions
 


NPHA Comments on NPS LSI Guide
This is also available in PDF form here.

The National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) would like to respond to the recently issued proposed Leasehold Surrender Interest Guide, identified as a 2/21/12 draft.

NPHA is the trade association of the large and small businesses working under concessions contracts issued by the National Park Service.  In some cases, NPHA members have links to park operations which predate the creation of the National Park Service in 1916.  Our members assist an estimated 100 million park visits with lodging, food, retail, transportation and other vital services.  Total revenues exceed $1 billion annually, allowing concessioners to have an in-park workforce of some 25,000 during peak operations.  Franchise fees and other payments to the National Park Service exceed $100 million annually.  We also play central roles in the Guest Donation Program, in park promotional efforts and in leading a coalition of park partners focused on the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016 and committed to, together, keeping national parks and national park programs a relevant and revered part of the American lifestyle for the agency’s second century.

NPHA members have been disappointed and concerned by the slowness of the National Park Service in responding to the 1998 concessions law reforms regarding Leasehold Surrender Interests (LSI).  Requests for recognition of LSI have been delayed and inconsistent and the impact has been significant on the quality of visitor services offered in parks.  New federal budgetary realities and the sizeable reduction in construction funds availability would seem to add new importance to attracting private investment in America’s national parks for the foreseeable future.

Yet NPHA members feel the draft Guide fails to protect and encourage private investment by concessioners.  Individual concessioners will address specific provisions which are troublesome, including identification of investments that qualify and NPS actions which value and depreciate qualifying investments.  NPHA’s comments seek to raise the broader issue of how the LSI tool can and should fit into a broader strategy of meeting legitimate visitor experience needs through combined agency and partner investments and operations.  We also believe that agency needs in the visitor experience arena have been highlighted and underscored by the new National Tourism and Travel Strategy issued on May 17, 2012.  The draft Guide fails to even recognize the importance of LSI to this important new policy direction.

NPHA believes that the agency’s actions on LSI are exacerbating the well-documented large and growing backlog of deferred maintenance and have contributed to a reduction in overall visitor capability in America’s national parks over two decades.  NPHA members support efforts to make national parks models of excellence in environmental operations, in compliance with health and safety standards, in universal access and in visitor services.  Current NPS policies and operations hamper these goals, including LSI treatment.

Most importantly, NPS must respond to changed realities in a holistic and creative way, respecting core values and mission but fully utilizing new tools, and using old tools in new ways.  The agency can and should assemble and coordinate a full suite of tools available to serve visitor needs, including but not limited to LSI.  Other tools might include expanded use of longer concessions contracts, more efficient use of specialized maintenance and capital investment accounts created under concessions contracts, priorities in use of park unit-retained franchise fees and priorities in the use of entrance fees and other user fees.

We believe that the Guide as published in draft form adds little and introduces new uncertainty to agency efforts to execute a financial strategy.  We are particularly surprised by the statement, “The proposed LSI Guide is not intended to describe all LSI requirements or circumstances. The proposed LSI Guide does not adopt requirements or policy for the National Park Service or National Park Service concessioners.”

NPHA calls upon NPS to (1) withdraw this proposal and (2) develop a new strategic plan which addresses LSI and other important financial tools which are needed to develop and maintain a quality visitor services infrastructure, especially in light of the new National Tourism and Travel Strategy.

NPHA offers its full and active cooperation in developing the right strategy – and in pursuing any new tools identified as needed – to enter the second century of NPS operations equipped for success.

National Park Centennial Fund Legislation

Administration and Congressional leaders are pursuing an important ten year mandatory spending initiative to ready our national parks for the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service in 2016. There is broad bipartisan support in Congress and near unanimous support among park advocacy organizations on the legislation, the result of intense and fruitful discussions among some 40 key groups. The chief unresolved issue involves offsets for the 10-year, $100 million per year spending. NPHA requests active support of the legislation and specific support for the following provisions:
1) specific provisions for concessioner involvement in the Centennial through local park friends organizations and a national concessioners foundation, the latter to support regional and national projects;
2) inclusion of a semi-postal stamp as a portion of the off-set, allowing concessioners, gateway communities and park advocates to provide direct aid;
3) strong encouragement for leveraging federal funding by requiring that the annual mix of projects selected by NPS receive at least 1:1 matching non-federal support, although some of the individual projects may not achieve this goal.
We ask Members of Congress to express support for the National Park Centennial Fund legislation in a letter requesting swift committee action to both U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman and U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Nick J. Rahall II.
 
Travel Promotion Act of 2007

The United States is experiencing a decline in attracting overseas travelers who add billions of dollars to the economy, billions of dollars in tax receipts, millions of jobs and help enhance America's image abroad. The global international travel market has increased by nearly 20 percent since 2000. During the same period, overseas travel to the United States has declined by 17 percent. The bill would establish a communications and promotion campaign on par with America's global competitors:
$100 million per annum. The bill combines private-sector execution with public-sector accountability by creating a non-profit corporation subject to Congressional and Administration oversight. Legislation would establish a Travel Promotion Fund, funded by private industry contributions matched by public funding generated by user fees paid by travelers from Visa Waiver countries. By FY 2010, industry will provide at least 50 percent of all funding. Public funding (user fees) will not exceed $100 million per year. The Senate legislation, S. 1616, has been approved by the Commerce Committee and is awaiting floor action. The House counterpart (H.R. 3232) was referred to three committees and awaits a hearing.
We ask Members of Congress to support S. 1616 and H.R. 3232 and seek passage of this important legislation prior to adjournment through co-sponsorship and letters urging action to Congressional leadership.
 
H-2B Program

The H-2B program permits hiring temporary, non-immigrant workers for seasonal and peakload non-agricultural jobs, generally for one year or less. Hiring of H-2B workers is permitted only after significant efforts to locate American workers fail. The number of workers under this provision has been capped at 66,000 annually since 1960, and the number of applicants is filled quickly and well before the start of a year. Some temporary relief has been achieved, but the temporary cap exemption expired on September 30, 2007, and the reimposition of the cap could have significant and adverse implications for operations in the summer of 2008 and beyond.
We ask Members of Congress to support S. 988 and H.R. 1843, which would remove the cap for five years (S. 988) or permanently (H.R. 1843).


Centennial Challenge Fund Legislation Advances; Broad Coalition Agrees on Recommendations Including Key Concessioners Provisions
 
(September 20, 2007) Washington, D.C. After three weeks of meetings -- long meetings filled with passion and full airing of views -- a diverse group of more than two dozen key recreation, park and conservation community organizations came to a final agreement on a package of provisions to amend the NPS Centennial Challenge fund legislation which had hearings in the House and Senate on August 2. The meetings were convened by the National Parks Conservation Association.
Over three weeks and more than ten sessions, there was talk and exploration of alternatives for dozens of facets of the Centennial effort. Surprisingly, consensus could be achieved once the rhetoric disappeared and the conversation turned to goals -- and how to reach those goals. One topic after another was discussed, and resolved. And many of the topics were potential deal-breakers -- including ways to unleash the power of concessioners in the Centennial effort. Yet by Friday, September 14, a remarkable package supported by the entire group was deliverd to the Hill staff.
Consensus cleared the way for a unified campaign on the Hill -- a campaign by interests diverse enough and powerful enough to have a legitimate claim to a pretty ambitious goal: a mandatory ten-year, $100 million per year fund designed to leverage federal funds to aid national parks.
The final "recreation" provision is attached so that you can see its value to our efforts. And we'll keep you posted on next steps in the Centennial journey!

International Visitors Up, Projected to Continue Climb for Three Years
The National Park Hospitality Association is receiving more visibility in Washington in many ways, including through strategic alliances with other key recreation and tourism organizations. Two items that are examples of this are: a letter going to all Members of Congress and an ad that will be appearing in a key Washington Hill publication, both regarding the Travel Promotion Act of 2007 (S. 1661 and H.R. 3232).

With the current exchange rate making visits to the US very attractive for travelers from across the globe -- and even from just to our north in Canada, the Department of Commerce is now predicting a significant growth in international visitors to the US for 2008, 2009 and 2010 -- perhaps finally exceeding the pre-9/11 levels.

Lyle Laverty Picked as DOI's Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks

On March 23, 2007, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne praised President Bush’s intention to nominate Lyle Laverty as Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. Laverty must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Confrimation hearing will take place on May 10, 2007.

Since 2001, Laverty has been the Director of Colorado State Parks, providing leadership for the state’s Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. Among his major accomplishments as director, Laverty established a strong natural resource program to improve and sustain the ecological, scenic, and scientific assets of Colorado state parks through proactive stewardship. During his tenure, he opened two new state parks and began planning on another two. The initiatives involved investment costs of more than $70 million. He raised $40 million to fund a Corps of Engineers partnership that rehabilitated Cherry Creek, Chatfield, and Trinidad state parks. Laverty also played a key role in establishing the Front Range Trail, a 700-mile trail extending through Colorado from Wyoming to New Mexico. He also led an effort to develop and implement business strategies to stabilize and strengthen the financial conditions of state parks and applied market investment strategies to facility investments, enhancing park revenue.

From 1965 to 2000, Laverty was a career employee of the U.S. Forest Service, where he rose through the ranks to serve successively as a Forest Supervisor at Mendocino National Forest; Director of Recreation and Wilderness Resources at USDA headquarters; Regional Forester in the Rocky Mountain Region; and Associate Deputy Chief at headquarters. In the latter capacity, he provided executive leadership for USFS’s implementation of the National Fire Plan. As a Regional Forester, he oversaw the management and stewardship of more than 24 million acres of National Forests and National Grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska. He carried out numerous resource programs, including timber management, fire and fuel management, watershed, range and recreation programs.

Laverty has a bachelor of science degree in Forest Management from Humboldt State University, Arcata, Calif. (June 1965); a master’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. (May 1981); and is a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (August 1997).

As Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Laverty would be responsible for overseeing policy for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, which have a combined annual budget of about $3.6 billion, and a combined workforce of about 30,000 employees.

NPHA looks forward to working with Lyle in his new position which has jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

Dan Wenk Named NPS Deputy Director

On March 8, 2007, National Park Service (NPS) Director Mary Bomar named Daniel N. Wenk as the agency’s deputy director for operations.
The 31-year NPS career veteran replaces Stephen P. Martin, who now serves as Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park. As deputy director, Wenk has an integral role in managing the National Park Service. The agency has an annual budget of $2.3 billion, 20,000 employees and the National Park System, which includes 390 national park sites covering more than 84 million acres. Wenk will also oversee partnership programs such as the National Register of Historic Places and National Trails System, designed to help extend the benefits of natural and cultural resources conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

Wenk, 54, has been director of the NPS Denver Service Center since December 2001. There he oversaw the agency’s centralized planning, design, and construction services, and provided parks and regional offices with services including contracting and project management.

Before Denver, Dan was superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial from 1985 to 2001. His leadership was integral in the design, development and completion of a $60 million public/private partnership that raised $30 million in private donations and in negotiating two innovative concession contracts for the construction of facilities valued at $30 million. Wenk began his National Park Service career in 1975 as a landscape architect at the Denver Service Center and was a management assistant at Yellowstone National Park from 1979 to 1984.

NPHA was pleased to have Dan introduced himself and spoke briefly at the NPHA Annual Meeting just before his official announcement of becoming Deputy Director. NPHA welcomes Dan to the NPS Washington Office and looks forward to working with him in the future.

Mary Bomar Confirmed as Park Service Director

On October 17, 2006, Mary A. Bomar was formally sworn in as the new Director of the National Park Service. Bomar replaced Fran Mainella, who announced in July
that she will soon be resigning as National Park Service Director.

Since July 2005, Bomar, a career National Park Service employee, has served
as director of the NPS Northeast Region, which covers 13 states.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, the Northeast Region is home to a third of all NPS museum collections, a quarter of all historic structures, almost half of the country’s National Historic Landmarks and more than half of the National Heritage Areas.Prior to being named regional director, Bomar served as acting regional director.

From 2003 to 2005, she served as superintendent of Independence National
Historical Park in Philadelphia. During her tenure, both the Liberty Bell
Center and the National Constitution Center opened in the park on
Independence Mall as part of the largest urban revitalization project in
the nation. Also during her tenure, the NPS reopened the park’s Second Bank
of the United States after a two-year utilities project and installed a new
exhibit, “The People of Independence.” Concurrently, the park managed a
$5.2 million rehabilitation of Independence Square, the site of
Independence Hall. Spurred by the new construction, park visitation surged
by 35 percent.

Previously, Bomar served as the first superintendent at the Oklahoma City
National Memorial, the first NPS Oklahoma State Coordinator, acting
superintendent at Rocky Mountain National Park and assistant superintendent
at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

Bomar’s National Park Service career began in the financial arena at
Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas where she served as chief of
administration.

Prior to joining the National Park Service, Bomar worked in a managerial
capacity at the Department of Defense.
Raised in Leicester, England, Bomar became a U.S. citizen in 1977.

Park Service Director Resigns

To the surprise of many, including Park Service employees, Fran Mainella, National Park Service Director tendered her resignation to President Bush on July 27, 2006. She was the first woman to act as Park Service Director and has filled this position since 2000 after being appointed by Bush. Director Mainella cited family health problems, particulaly that of her parents, and a desire to pursue other opportunities as her primary reasons for the leaving the Park Service.

Director Mainella stated that she is proud of the opportunity she had to serve the American White Housepeople for the last six years. She is especially gratified to have developed a number of partnerships, to reduce the maintenance backlog of Park Service facilities, and to have successfully continued the Natural Resource Challenge. Fran was also responsible for steering the Park Service through some tumultuous times, particularly the terrorits attacks of 9/11 and the devasting natural disasters of the 2005 hurricane season.

No date certain has been set for her departure and Fran stated that she will leave "on a mutually agreeable date" beneficial to the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior. She would like the opportunity to finish a few important projects upcoming in the near future, such as the 90th Anniversary of the Park Service and the finalization of the 2006 Park Service Management Policies.

NPS Does an About-Face on 2006 Management Policies

On June 19, 2006 new Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, released the new (and probably final) version of National Park Service Draft Management Policies (2006 Draft). The first draft was released in November of 2005 (2005 Draft) and NPHA, along with many of our individual members, commented on them during the official public comment period. The 2005 Draft was a significant improvement over the 2001 NPS Management Policies constructed by the Clinton Administration. The 2005 Draft struck a much better and needed balance of the mandate set forth in the 1916 NPS Organic Act to conserve park resources for the enjoyment of the people, i.e., the park visitor. In fact, the 2005 Draft made it clear that the enjoyment of national parks was on equal footing with the conservation of the resources, as was the original intent of Congress.

Unfortunately, the 2006 Draft returns, with no uncertainty, back to and even reinforces the policies of the Clinton Administration’s position that conservation of resources is always predominant over the use of the resources by the visiting public. Thus, the 2006 Draft again severs the single mandate/dual mission of the Park Service to conserve the resources while providing the same for the enjoyment of the people.

This is especially troubling when applied in parks that have significant amounts of motorized recreation and are managing for soundscapes. Soundscapes are now considered by the NPS to be a natural resource to be managed just like any other natural, historic, or cultural resource. In short, the Park Service must assure that the "use" of this resource will not leave it impaired. The 2006 Draft makes it clear that when a conflict arises between the resource and the use of the park, the resource will always comes first. The 2006 Draft, lets this be known in no uncertain terms. In fact, the very first sentence of the 2006 Draft states that “[w]hen there is a conflict between conserving resources unimpaired for future generations, and their use, conservation will be predominant.” This sentence is used frequently throughout the document.

Because resources in all units in the Park System are to be treated the same, soundscapes, for example, in Yellowstone National Park are treated the same as those in, for example, Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Thus, it is not difficult to see that the Park Service is heading down a road that when a motorized recreational activity, like boating, interferes with a park visitor who desires quiet and solitude, the Park Service will move to curtail or even prohibit boating. This is exactly what has happened in the Grand Canyon in regard to air tour overflights in that national park. The air tour industry is still fighting for its business life as the Park Service keeps whittling away at it.

Although there is no formal comment period on 2006 Draft, the Park Service was accepting public comments throught July. However, this is not a formal public comment period and the Park Service is under no obligation to consider comments as they are in a formal comment period setting. The Park Service plans to finalize the 2006 some time in mid August, 2006.

2005 Transportation Bill, SAFETEA-LU Going Through Some Changes

On August 10, President Bush passed H.R. 3, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy of Users also known as SAFETEA-LU which allocates $286.5 billion over the next 6 years for the nation's transportation needs from the Highway Trust Fund. Parks and recreation programs were to recieve about $2 billion per year, inlcuding 2006, from the program. That is, these programs were to recieve this amount this year, until hurricane Katrina blew through and changed much of the funding allocations.

In December of 2005, Congress enacted a number of recisssions in order to shift money from other federal programs to the rebuilding of much of the Gulf coast after the destruction caused by Katrina. The recissions, or take-backs, will remove $4 billion from state's surface transportation programs and funnel it into the Katrina recovery effort. These recissions include a 1% across the board cut for every federal agency, including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This would rescind over $400 million allocated for SAFTEA-LU programs for FY 2006.

Another recission takes $1.143 billion directly from SAFETEA-LU formula programs. This would include funding take-backs from transportation enhancements and recreational trails, but would not affect nonformula projects such as scenic byways and federal land highways. Yet another recisssion would take $2 billion from SAFETEA-LU money for FY 2006 and also would not affect the scenic byways or federal land highway programs.

The FHWA has asked each state to submit a list of projects that would be affected by the first round of recissions. That list was to be submitted no later than January 28, 2006. Before the recissions are deducted SAFETEA-LU had allocated $627 million for transportation enhancements, $195 million for national park roads, $280 million for federal land roads, $70 million for recreational trails, and $30 million for scenic byways. How much each of these is affected by the recession will depend on the states recommendations.

House Passes H.R. 3824: The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act (TESRA)

On September 29, 2005 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3824 the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act or TESRA. This is first time since the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973 that major legislation reforming the Act has passed through a body of Congress.

(From the House Committee on Resources)
After more than three decades of implementation, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has failed to achieve its purpose of recovering endangered species to healthy and sustainable populations. In addition, the unintended consequences of this law have caused a tremendous amount of conflict with landowners and local communities alike. As such, Congress must update and modernize the ESA to strengthen its results for species recovery by turning conflict into cooperation. TESRA will do just that.

ESA Results - By the Numbers

According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) data, the ESA has achieved a less-than 1% success rate for species recovery. Just as troubling is the Service data on the progress of species recovery efforts and species status. A review of the numbers alone serves as irrefutable evidence of the fact that the ESA needs serious legislative improvement.

According to U.S. FWS data:

Less than 1% (10 of roughly 1300 species) have recovered in the Act’s history.
39% of all listed species are classified in “unknown”status.
21% of all listed species are classified as “declining.”
3% (or roughly 2 dozen species) are believed to be extinct.
Only 6% of all listed species are classified as “improving.”
77% of all listed species have only achieved 0-25% of their recovery goals
In addition, 30% of all listed species are classified as stable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much in terms of the Act’s effectiveness. In many cases, the FWS classifies a species as stable because factors other than an increase in the species’ numbers or distribution like corrections of data error. For example, at the time of listing officials thought the Johnston’s Frankenia –a plant –was down to a few thousand specimens. After listing, more data was collected which showed there were more than 9 million. It should not have been listed, but was moved to stable status instead of being de-listed. There are many cases like this.

The numbers alone serve as irrefutable evidence that the ESA is broken and in desperate need of a legislative update. TESRA will improve the ESA among the following ways:

Conservation Aid: This reduces the burden of regulation on landowners when use of their private property has been restricted for conservation purposes. In doing so, individual property owners are not unfairly forced to shoulder the financial burden of a program to conserve endangered and threatened species for all Americans. These assurance reduces the disincentives to landowners to provide habitat on their property by taking it off the books as a liability

Conservation Grants: This will provide the Secretary another tool to foster new ideas and unique approaches to conservation on private property by providing some guidelines as to the goals to be met as well as sideboards on how the funds will be used, while leaving room for ingenuity and creativity on how to achieve conservation.

Threatened Species - TESRA also reestablishes the distinction between endangered and threatened species as intended by requiring that rules regulating threatened species be promulgated on a case by case basis and with justification rather than by a blanket rule for all threatened species. By requiring the tailoring of rules to threatened species, TESRA ensures that the management flexibility that can be central to effectively promoting conservation is not lost.

Critical Habitat

TESRA replaces the critical habitat program with a more integrated recovery planning process that includes the identification of specific areas that are of special value to the conservation of the species which are then given priority in recovery efforts. This will focus the law on recovery and minimize the conflicts that lead to litigation.

Scientific Standards Not Defined

The Endangered Species Act relies on a standard of “best scientific data available” for regulatory decision-making, such as listing a species as threatened or endangered and designating critical habitat. Unfortunately, Congress failed to define “science” when the law was written in 1973 and to specifically outline whether or not particular data would meet this standard.

TESRA requires the Secretary of the Interior to establish criteria that will constitute a clear definition of “best available” to strengthen the law’s scientific underpinnings. Better science leads to better decisions. Better science and better decisions save valuable resources from being wasted on species not truly in need.

Incentives for Private Property Owners

Another major unintended consequence of the ESA stems from the fact that it creates an adversarial relationship between government regulators and the people who are most critical to the goal of saving endangered species: America’s farmers, ranchers, and private property owners.

Known as the “shoot, shovel, and shut up” syndrome, research shows that the ESA has created perverse incentives that prompt land owners to actually destroy species habitat to rid their property of the liability that comes with endangered species.

Because 90% of endangered species in the U.S. have habitat on private land, it is imperative that we change this disincentive into real incentives. The abysmal 1% success rate for species recovery will never improve unless we do.


 

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