Guest Post by Kitty Benzar on National Forest Concessionaires and Privatization
Thank you to Kitty Benzar for this guest post.
Here are three examples of concessionaire operating plans. All of these are included in the lawsuit filed on Sept 11. They include day use fee sites that have never been vetted through any public process, as well as types of fees that FLREA prohibits the Forest Service from charging, such as for simply passing through a developed area without using the facilities.
I get more calls and emails from people about concessionaire issues than any other topic. There is a lot of pent-up anger out there about concessionaires being allowed to operate under different rules than the federal agencies have to follow. People have been told by concessionaire employees that they are trespassing – on National Forest land! – just for walking through a developed area to get to a trailhead or the bank of a river or lake. There are frequent stories of concessionaire employees being rude, aggressive, and drunk on the job. Concessionaire sites are frequently reported to be trashy and run down. I’m sure there are concessions that are better run than others, but this is what I’m hearing. If the FS was simply hiring private contractors to haul the trash or maintain the toilets I don’t think there would be a problem with that. But instead they are leasing facilities to private operators and then walking away.
Since the news stories about the concessionaire lawsuit started appearing I have been buried in “attagirl” emails and phone calls. The overall message has been “It’s about time somebody did something about this!”
The FS relationship with the concessionaire industry is way too cozy. There have been at least two closed-door meetings this summer between Undersecretary Sherman and the American Recreation Coalition about the ARC’s proposal for drastic expansion of the concessionaire system. Deputy Chief Weldon is going to give a keynote speech in November at a conference promoting the privatization of public lands. To me, it all has a strong aroma of conflict of interest. The new buzzword in the concessionaire world is “PPP” for Public-Private Partnership. They are using it to distance themselves from the charge of “privatization” which they have learned creates knee-jerk opposition among the public. But PPP is just code for Privatization; they are one and the same. Check out the below comparison over time of the banner on the webpage for http://www.ParkPrivatization.com.
Note from Sharon: I have attached three operating plans and a better version of the webpages here; below is the best I know how to do in WordPress as an image.
Santa Catalina Complex RoseCyn2012OPplanSigned.
Pike and San Isabel2012 – Operating _Plan_Redacted.
And a higher resolution of the screenshots below, ParkPrivatization_webpage_banner_evolution