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Jan. 4, 2017

Disregarding Public Concern, the National Park Service Finalizes Commercialism Policy and Opens Parks to Industry Influence

Statement of Kristen Strader, Campaign Coordinator, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert Program

Note: After months of reviewing public comments, the National Park Service (NPS) announced on Dec. 28 that Director Jonathan Jarvis has signed and therefore finalized Director’s Order #21, a policy that allows parks to actively seek donations from corporate vendors, allows the parks service to partner with alcohol companies, drops the current policy that parks must be free of commercialism and lifts restrictions on naming rights in parks.

It is disgraceful that the parks service plans to sell our national parks to the highest bidder despite overwhelming public opposition to increased commercialism in our national parks. More than 215,000 petition signers and hundreds of commenters opposed this policy.

Now that this policy has been finalized, park visitors soon could be greeted with various forms of advertisements, like a sign reading “brought to you by McDonald’s” within a new visitor’s center at Yosemite, or “Budweiser” in script on a park bench at Acadia.

The NPS did make one right move by removing a provision from the policy that would have allowed corporate logos to be placed on exhibits and waysides.

In a society where we are constantly inundated with advertisements everywhere we go, national parks offered a unique and beautiful escape. Even in schools, students endure a constant barrage of billboards, social media advertising and marketing. Until now, national parks have remained relatively commercial-free, which is why they were such a valuable respite.

The finalization of Director’s Order #21 signals a dangerous shift toward opening our parks up to an unprecedented amount of commercial influence.

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