May 12, 2016

The #neoliberalism decline and fall of the National Park Service is complete

Even as the National Park Service has sold out its centennial observance to a capitalist consortium (after initial budgeting for it was nickled and dimed), and talked about jacking fees (even with my dislike of the old Parks Pass replaced by the "all access" pass to BLM and Forest Service land that shouldn't charge we the nature lovers such fees until they charge more for grazing permits and mineral rights), it's continued to struggle financially — and otherwise.

So, what's Director Jonathan Jarvis' idea? Rather than telling visitors to "write their Congresscritters" over crumbling roads and curtailed hours and staff at facilities due to chronic underfunding, he wants to put the neoliberal sellout on steroids with corporate branding of Park Service facilities.

No, really:
The Park Service still won’t recognize donors with advertising or marketing slogans. But for the first time, their logos will get prominent display. Companies will be able to earmark gifts for recurring park expenses, which was prohibited before. And a company in litigation with the Interior Department, the Park Service’s parent agency, could now donate as long as the dispute does not involve a national park. 
 Bricks or paving stones on the steps to a visitor center, video screens inside, educational, interpretive, research, recreation and youth programs, positions or endowments — these also will get naming rights, according to the proposed policy. There could be walls in visitor centers dedicated to donors, or digital ones, as fundraising is beefed up through crowdsourcing and other online strategies to reach the public. 
 And a donor will now be allowed to design and build a park building and even operate it long term.


Jarvis and some organizational flunky named Jeff Reinbold, with the title of associate director for partnerships and civic engagement — which says a lot right there — tout it as bypassing allegedly slothful government bureaucracy to “get deals done,” along with putatively attracting Millennials, etc.

First, these aren’t the type of deals I “want done.”

Second, if this “branding” would attract more Millennials, they’re not the type of Millennials, or visitors of any age group, I want in the parks.

And, I’m not alone:
But the new brand of philanthropy is drawing fierce criticism from watchdogs and park advocates who accuse Jarvis of embracing a creeping commercialization they say has no place in the park system. “You could use Old Faithful to pitch Viagra,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that’s trying to rally the park community to fight the plan. “Or the Lincoln Memorial to plug hemorrhoid cream. Or Victoria’s Secret to plug the Statue of Liberty.” “Every developed area in a park could become a venue for product placement,” Ruch said. Or, he added, access: “A telecom company could say, ‘Nice mountain. We’ll make a generous donations for the right of way.’ ”
Don’t think that would or could happen? I’ve got some right of way to sell you across the Funeral Mountains.

Speaking of PEER, it pulls no punches on its own website, with a news release entitled "Panhandling and Pandering in our National Parks."

It's got a link to comment on the idea, which you can do by the end of day Sunday, May 16.

This is all nothing new.

Jarvis, from early on in his status as NPS director, over the oyster farms in Point Reyes and other things, has proved himself to be semi-incompetent, and given some previous heads of the Park Service, that's pretty big.

And, it shows.

Just in the past year or two, it got sued by the former concessionaire at Yosemite (and eventually utterly caved in);

Before him, Kenny Boy Salazar as Dear Leader's first Interior secretary was a neolib sellout, too friendly to oil and gas. His successor, Sally Jewell, coming from NPS corporatized centennial partner REI, may be even worse.

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