National Forests Allow Corporate Ads
For the first time, the U.S. Forest Service is allowing corporations to display ads on its lands, roads, marinas, and ski resorts under new rules set to become permanent this spring. The rules would preempt state and local restrictions governing promotion of alcohol, tobacco products and gambling.
The holder of a permit may advertise products and services inside buildings or other interior spaces, including chair lift restraining bars facing the rider. Outdoor advertising is allowed in connection with a specific event, such as a race.
The Forest Service says its shield or any other symbol identified with the agency cannot appear in conjunction with product or service names and advertisements and “care shall be taken to avoid any other appearance of agency endorsement of product or services.”
In its policy statement, approved last October by Associate Deputy Chief Gloria Manning, the Service says the purpose of the ad program is to, “Encourage cooperative relationships and sponsorships that promote public participation in the management of National Forest System lands, including programs or projects that propose public services, evaluate solutions to specific natural resource management problems, or promote conservation awareness or public health and safety.”
But Forest Service employees and other government workers object to the new ad policy. “Vistas of our national forests may soon include giant inflatable beer bottles, banners for chewing tobacco and snack food kiosks,” said attorney Director Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national association of government workers in natural resources agencies.
“Under this plan, every tacky commercial promotion will be welcomed, subject only to approval by a Bush administration appointee,” Ruch complained.
The focus of the plan is to encourage corporate donations to support “special events, such as races, competitions [and] festivals” on national forest lands. The proposal liberalizes “sponsor recognition” rules so that, for the first time, a corporation could display banners, signs and other advertisements on forest trails, along roadways and inside concessions.
Rules restricting banners, billboards and other “exterior” signs in the forests would be waived for a “special project” deemed to “promote public participation” in national forests.
Sponsors could advertise without any limitation inside lodges and marinas, on ski gondolas and within ski areas operated by concessionaires.
The only limit on ads would be the discretion of a designated “authorized officer.”
Public comment on the plan concluded on Monday but the rules have been in temporary effect since November 25, 2005.
The Forest Service action is similar in scope to a pending plan by the National Park Service that encourages park officials to directly solicit contributions and offer “donor recognition” packages, including plaques and limited naming rights, in return.
“First the Bush administration wants to sell off national forest land, now they propose to rent out whatever is left,” said Ruch, referring to an administration plan to sell 300,000 acres of national forest land to pay for ongoing programs.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.