Is Texas’ Overcrowded, Underfunded State Parks System Being Loved to Death?

Texans love their state parks. But state’s public lands are overcrowded and rapidly deteriorating. Maybe it’s time to take the long view.

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parks, enchanted rock
Earl Nottingham/Texas Parks and Wildlife

On weekends and holidays, it’s now common for visitors to be turned away at Enchanted Rock and Balmorhea as well as Government Canyon, Guadalupe River, Ray Roberts Lake, McKinney Falls, Pedernales Falls, Hueco Tanks and Garner.

More people are enjoying Texas’ 95 state parks than ever. In the 2017 fiscal year, there were 10 million visitors, a 20 percent increase over 2012. Visitation at some destinations has skyrocketed. For example, the number of visitors to McKinney Falls, a small park on Onion Creek in far southeast Austin, nearly doubled in the last decade, jumping from 128,000 in 2008 to 319,000 in 2017.

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Kansas will charge $50 a day for ‘backcountry access’ to this new state park

Public access to some areas of the state’s newest park would cost more than a weeklong pass for an entire family at the Grand Canyon, under a plan approved by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Anyone who wants to walk through fragile rock formations in Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park would have to buy a $50 permit, the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission has decided. The park is expected to open sometime in 2019.


The Niobrara chalk formations are the same kind of rock found in the Badlands of South Dakota, dating back millions of years. The 100-foot-deep canyons are part of a 330-a

But the landowners of Little Jerusalem said they haven’t approved the “backcountry access” permit fee and want to keep it affordable.

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New Ads Highlight Need for Congress to Save LWCF

WASHINGTON, DC – Hispanic Access Foundation published ads today in the DC market to highlight the impact the Land and Water Conservation Fund has had on Latino and urban communities throughout the United States and emphasizes why Congress needs to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the program before Congress adjourns in December.

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#escapetheoutdoors…National Public Lands Day…Sept 22

Lightning storm at the Grand Canyon



The 25th Annual National Public Lands Day is happening on September 22, 2018!

Mark September 22 on your calendar and make plans to head to your favorite outdoor spot as NEEF gets set to celebrate the 25th annual National Public Lands Day, nationally sponsored by Toyota Motor North America. No matter what is happening in the world, on National Public Lands Day, outdoor enthusiasts turn out in droves to give back to and enjoy their favorite outdoor places.

Every day, natural disasters and extreme weather, human activities, and a host of other factors take their toll on our public lands, threatening the health and wellbeing of the people and wildlife who depend on them. Public land managers, volunteers, and others who steward these special places work tirelessly to restore these areas, make them more resilient to future threats, and ensure that people and wildlife continue to enjoy them for years to come.

This enduring support and commitment to public lands year after year inspired NEEF to focus National Public Lands Day 2018 on resilience and restoration. Our natural resources are resilient, but only if we treat them right and give them the care they need. Through volunteer service on National Public Lands Day as well as grant support to local organizations, NEEF helps ensure people of all ages and abilities connect with public lands for recreation, hands-on learning, and community-building—now and in the future.


More about NEEF here

In stormy markup, U.S. House panel OKs parks, drilling and LWCF bills

from Greenwire:


In stormy markup, panel OKs parks, drilling and LWCF bills

Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter   Thursday, September 13, 2018


The House Natural Resources Committee today marked up legislation dealing with revenue sharing, national parks, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other matters. Natural Resources Committee


Despite last-minute fireworks from a Louisiana Republican, a House committee this morning advanced three major bills, including one that permanently reauthorizes a popular land and water conservation program before it expires on Sept. 30.

Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, hammered out a bipartisan agreement that extends the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a major win for many of the program’s supporters who are tired of 11th-hour scrambles over the years to temporarily authorize LWCF.

The voice vote on the deal came as a surprise during a markup that initially was only supposed to consider one bill: the “Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act,” H.R. 6510.

But a decision by House leadership to cancel tomorrow’s session, as well as pressure from Louisiana Republican Rep. Garret Graves to take up his bill boosting the share of offshore oil and gas drilling revenues for Gulf Coast states, forced a doubleheader session on the three bills, as Bishop put it.

The committee also advanced Graves’ bill — H.R. 6771, which would increase the revenue-sharing for Gulf states from the current level of 37.5 percent to 50 percent — and the parks bill by voice vote.

The LWCF bill would allocate 40 percent of money to the fund’s state-side program, 40 percent to the federal government and 20 percent for other necessary activities that could include deferred maintenance needs, for example.

Under the legislation, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories would be treated as individual states with equal shares for the purposes of LWCF.

Another provision would give a 3 percent set-aside for recreation access, requiring the Interior secretary to put together a list of priority projects.

“This is a taste of what’s possible when people work together in good faith,” Grijalva said today. “Days like these are far too rare in Congress, and if we keep this up, we might just restore public trust in Congress’ ability to get things done.”

Bishop added, “My reservations about the program have never been about the goals of LWCF, rather I’ve been frustrated that the implementation of the program fell short of the law’s intended purpose.”

Bishop stuck to his agreement with Grijalva, rejecting several ultimately unsuccessful amendments from other Republicans, including one from Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, seeking to decrease the annual authorized $900 million LWCF amount by half.

Another from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) would have required the Interior secretary to sell an equal number of acres for land acquired by the federal government under LWCF.

LWCF still has a way to go in the face of an abbreviated congressional calendar: The full House needs to take up the measure, and the matter remains in limbo in the Senate. Members there continue to struggle to find a vehicle for reauthorization.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the program’s longtime champion who has been pushing in recent weeks to permanently reauthorize it, said he’s “been closely following” the House bill.

“There is strong, bipartisan support in both chambers for permanently reauthorizing LWCF,” Burr said in a statement. “With the program’s expiration deadline quickly approaching, I will not let up my push for a vote on LWCF to save America’s most popular and successful conservation program.”

Burr has not yet taken a position on the House bill, said his spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll.

Outside groups were pleased with today’s outcome.

“We’re thrilled that Chairman Bishop and ranking member Grijalva are working together on a compromise that advances the Land and Water Conservation Fund in a meaningful way. We’re now one step closer to permanently reauthorizing LWCF,” said Julia Peebles, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ government relations manager.

However, Peebles acknowledged that the fight wasn’t over. “BHA and our partners will redouble our efforts in support of LWCF to ensure that this bill crosses the finish line — and we also will continue our work to secure dedicated funding for America’s most popular and successful conservation and access program,” she said.

Bipartisan parks bill

The parks bill would create a five-year, $6.5 billion fund for four Interior agencies to address long-standing maintenance and construction backlogs at the nation’s parks, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

“I recognize this won’t stand alone, but ultimately there will be other pieces that have to go forward with it,” said Bishop, specifically mentioning revenue-sharing with states and the authorization of the LWCF as “elements” that ultimately will have to be dealt with in some way.

The money for the proposed “National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund” would be made up of 50 percent of all otherwise unallocated revenue from energy production on federal lands and waters.

Interior’s largest agencies — the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Bureau of Indian Education — would benefit from the fund. The legislation, similar to a bipartisan bill introduced in June in the Senate, is a combination of existing proposals.

But today’s markup devolved into a debate over where precious oil and gas drilling revenues go and which lands and waters benefit from those conservation dollars.

Graves and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) unsuccessfully introduced several amendments — more than 20 — to H.R. 6510. All the provisions essentially tried to protect the Gulf Coast states from losing out.

Lawmakers from those states, which produce the lion’s share of offshore oil and gas drilling revenues, are concerned the parks bill would take money meant for them.


The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, passed after Hurricane Katrina, allowed Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to share 37.5 percent of oil and gas revenues produced in federal waters off their coasts to assist them with coastal restoration and hurricane protection.

Graves used the markup to vociferously fight for his state’s share of oil and gas drilling money, which Louisiana uses for coastal restoration and other conservation projects.

While the panel rejected his amendments to the parks bill, no one voiced objection to his GOMESA reform legislation, just introduced yesterday.

Kevin Roig, Graves’ deputy chief of staff, said his bill “brings revenue-sharing from offshore production more in line with onshore. While state producing energy onshore federal lands get to retain 50 percent of the energy revenues, coastal states have received a small fraction.”

Roig said Graves’ bill would also ensure new revenues would go to coastal restoration projects that help communities better weather hurricanes and other disasters. The proposed 50 percent in sharing would be for leases issues after December 2006.

California Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman said he wanted to focus on areas of agreement to restore important wetlands in Louisiana and elsewhere.

“We’ve got a lot of grievances we can bring to these conversations,” Huffman said to Graves, responding to the Louisianan’s remarks over how other states benefit greatly from his state’s energy development.

“I want to see the right thing done, but without punishing other states,” Huffman said.

Twitter: @klunney Email:


Elevating Outdoor Recreation Together

Opportunities for synergy between state offices of outdoor recreation and federal land-management agencies, the outdoor recreation industry, non- governmental organizations, and local outdoor recreation providers

Brooke Sausser Jordan W. Smith, Ph.D.

Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State University

Full Report

This report is a joint research effort between the


of the


and the




Research conducted by Brooke Sausser, a Master’s student at Utah State University, under the advisement of Dr. Jordan W. Smith, Director of

the Institute of Outdoor

Recreation and Tourism

With special thanks to the interviewees, the Outdoor program for

This study was initiated and commissioned by the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Division of the National Park Service. Invaluable guidance, editing, and support provided by Bob Ratcliffe, Krista Sherwood, and Adam Milnor.

Industry Association, and the Center for Jackson Hole’s SHIFT sharing information.

JULY 2018

President Names Vela to Lead National Park Service

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela has been nominated to serve as the next director of the National Park Service.

Ending two months of speculation on Friday, President Donald Trump named Vela as his pick to head the agency, which has not had a permanent director since Jonathan Jarvis retired in January 2017.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praised the move in an official release.

“David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for,” Zinke said, “and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job.”





Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela has been nominated to serve as the next director of the National Park Service.

Ending two months of speculation on Friday, President Donald Trump named Vela as his pick to head the agency, which has not had a permanent director since Jonathan Jarvis retired in January 2017.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praised the move in an official release.

 “David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for,” Zinke said, “and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job.”


Full story


New Cottages and $55 mil in Bond Funds for WV State Parks

Three new cottages were opened July 16 at Chief Logan State Park in West Virginia.  Construction dollars came from gas and oil bonus funds directed to State Parks.  More detail on cottages here.  Additional projects are scheduled to begin as funds become available.


Also, on July 18, the RFP was went out to release $55M in bonds for repairs and improvements to West Virginia State Parks.  Most of the funds will be used to address  infrastructure repairs, lodge and cabin upgrades and other deferred maintenance needs.   

New Directors in 5 States: LA, NC, NJ, SC, UT

Announcements have recently been made on new directors in five states. 

Louisana:  Gene Reynolds  He replaces Robert Barham who retired following many years of public service in conservation for Louisana.
New Jersey: Olivia Glenn  Mark Texel is now serving as the assistant director for parks.
North Carolina:  Dwayne Patterson  Mike Murphy, who had served as director since 2014 following careers in finance and education, left in March.
South Carolina:  Paul McCormack    (media link pending) Phil Gaines is retiring after a 37 year career with the SC State Park Service; he has accepted a professor of practice position with Clemson University.
Utah:  Jeff Rasmussen  Deputy director since 2012, Jeff has been name director since the untimely passing of Fred Hayes, another respected career parks veteran.

Enrollment Open for 12th Annual State Park Leadership School

The National Association of State Park Directors and the National Training Center at Oglebay Park have opened the registration for the 2019 School.  More info:  curriculum and online registration.

Founded in 2007, the State Park Leadership School was formed with hopes to fill a void that was trending due to the baby boomer generation of state park employees approaching retirement. Assistant Park Managers, as well as people coming in from other industries, were in need of professional development in order to step into park manager and other leadership positions.

Ideal students include new supervisors, mid-level managers moving into greater responsibilities and high-potential employees. The program covers core competencies that are essential to effective professional state park management.

Students are able to network with peers from all over the country and receive instruction from professionals with state park management experience.

The two-year certificate program through North Carolina State University consists of both distance education and on-site components. Students begin the program receiving an on-line distance learning module that provides instruction on the curriculum. Each module includes study guides, sample test questions, and recommended supplemental resources. The on-line portion is followed up by an on-site experimental learning forum at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling, West Virginia. Each year concludes with a written exam covering the various topics within the curriculum. After the second year, an average score of 70% is required to earn the certificate.

State Park Leadership School … Serve, Lead, Inspire!