ARC Forum Touts Recreation as Political Issue
Recreation issues can have an important place in the public policy debates associated with the elections of 2008, according to a diverse group of national policy experts who spoke Sept. 20 at “Recreation 2008: Making Our Issues Count” in Washington, D.C.
The national forum, which was held by the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), brought together key recreation and conservation leaders to discuss ways to encourage candidates for federal and state offices in 2008 to consider recreation and conservation issues as key means of achieving important goals in healthcare, education, crime deterrence and addressing other voter concerns.
Keynoting the forum was U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who also served as the chairman of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors (PCAO) in the 1980’s. During his address, Alexander delivered his key recommendation: a campaign to create a third national recreation commission.
“It’s a different time. We need to reach out, educate, and encourage young people to embrace the great American Outdoors for the sake of their health and their heritage,” he said.
Following the keynote, ARC Vice Chairman and SGMA International President Tom Cove moderated a panel comprised of three recreation policy experts who have served as presidential appointees: Bob Herbst, former assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks during the Carter Administration; Bill Horn, former assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks under President Reagan; and Jim Lyons, former under secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment in the Clinton Administration.
“Although recreation is ‘motherhood and apple pie,’” Cove told the group, “there are challenges in getting heard in the political arena.” The panelists confirmed that presenting recreation as a solution to the nation’s most pressing concerns is a better strategy than championing recreation issues as a goal.
Other highlights included:
• Greg Cohen, president of the American Highway Users Alliance (AHUA), offered a case study to the forum participants about AHUA’s The Road to Congress candidate binder.
• A second panel focused even more on recreation community tools, including: meetings and events; magazines and newsletters; training members to be effective volunteers in political campaigns; planning for Great Outdoors Month 2008 (June); and participating in Presidential platform committee hearings.
• Former Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) recounted successes during his career as Arkansas’s governor and senator and in his pursuit of the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party.