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The Public Says ‘NO’ to Corporate Advertising in National Parks

The Public Says ‘NO’ to Corporate Advertising in National Parks

Outpouring of Comments Shows Public Opposes New NPS Policy; 215,000 Petition Signatures Demand That Parks Remain Free of Corporate Branding

Sept. 27, 2016

Contact: Kristen Strader, kstrader@citizen.org, (202) 588-7785

David Monahan, david@commercialfreechildhood.org, (617) 896-9368

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following their review of hundreds of public comments filed with the National Park Service (NPS), Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert program and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) have renewed their demand that the NPS abandon plans that would open parks to corporate advertising.

The NPS offered a public comment period, which ended in May, on a new policy that would allow parks to actively seek donations from corporate vendors, loosen rules on “donor recognition” and lift various restrictions on naming rights in parks. But the NPS has not posted the comments for public review. CCFC requested the comments under the Freedom of Information Act, and obtained 345 of them, which are now available (PDF) on the CCFC website. Seventy-eight percent of commenters oppose the NPS policy. Under the federal Administrative Procedure Act, when the NPS issues a final rule it must describe and respond to the public comments it receives.

“It’s disappointing that the NPS did not post these comments for public review,” said Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert program. “But the public has spoken loudly and clearly against corporate sponsorships in our parks. We urge the National Park Service to hear their voices and abandon this plan, so the parks will forever be places to appreciate nature and American history, unspoiled by commercialism.”

Commenters said they visit national parks to get away from the noise of marketing and consumerism, and many are concerned that corporate recognition in parks could result in corporate-influenced park policy. Sandy Shea, president of High Country Conservation Advocates of Crested Butte, Colo., told the NPS, “We strenuously oppose the latest contemplated policy to ramp up corporate financial support, and display of corporate support, within our nation’s National Parks. This is a continuation of a dangerous policy that will lead to degradation of parks into theme and thrill locations, devoid of the psychologically-regenerative and spiritual values upon which the parks began to be founded over a century ago.”

Jack Drury of New York, N.Y., urged the NPS to keep parks free of commercialism. “Our parks are a refuge from the constant barrage of media, advertising, and overstimulation we deal with every day. To extend these influences into our parks and landmarks doesn’t just miss the point, it goes against their very purpose and shows a lack of respect and consideration for all of your visitors. Please keep our parks and landmarks as the places of refuge and relaxation that they are meant to be!”

Public Citizen and CCFC sent a letter (PDF) today demanding revisions to the NPS policy, called Director’s Order #21: Philanthropic Partnerships. The groups object to the fact that the new policy removes the existing ban on partnerships with alcohol sellers and expressly authorizes such partnerships. They also object to provisions permitting naming rights to park rooms and facilities, and corporate branding on park benches, bricks, furnishings and park service vehicles.

The groups also oppose plans to require park superintendents to engage in fundraising, which could result in superintendents being hired and rewarded based on fundraising abilities, rather than the ability to effectively manage parks and further the mission of the NPS, which is to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

“Our national parks are America’s treasures, held in trust for future generations, and are not ‘brought to you by’ corporations,” said David Monahan, campaign manager of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “To teach children that an appreciation for our history, culture and natural resources is more important than materialism, the park experience must remain free of corporate logos and recognitions.”

A petition drive led by CREDO Action, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert and CCFC has garnered 215,000 signatures demanding that the NPS abandon plans to permit corporate sponsorships, naming rights and branding in parks. Last month, Commercial Alert and CCFC representatives delivered petition signatures to NPS headquarters and spoke with NPS staff about the concerns of their members. The NPS indicated that they will make a final ruling on the policy by the end of this year.