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NTA Celebrates FLREA Extension as ‘Icing on the Cake’

October 17, 2013

When Congress passed legislation last night to restart government programs—including national parks and other popular attractions—they gave the National Tour Association and its members something else to celebrate: an extension of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which allows federal recreation sites to use entrance fees for programming and projects such as rehabilitating trails and updating visitor facilities. A one-year extension of the act was included in the bill that reopened the federal government following a 16-day shutdown.

NTA supported the FLREA extension because it funds priority projects at federal sites enjoyed by NTA members’ customers, including both domestic and international travelers. In recent years FLREA has generated more than $300 million per year. Because of the much-needed discretionary income FLREA provides, the extension was the unanimous top priority of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We’re excited we got the extension through 2014, and we can continue to issue annual passes,” said Craig Obey, senior vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association. “It will provide time for Congress to work on a more significant reauthorization.”

In recent weeks NTA has worked with the Second Century Coalition, which focuses on the future of the National Park Service and its programs in advance of the agency’s centennial celebration in 2016.

“We just attended a meeting on FLREA at the National Parks Conservation Association on Tuesday,” said NTA President Lisa Simon, CTP. “We certainly did not expect that an extension would be authorized by Congress the very next day. It’s icing on the cake of the parks’ reopening.”

For much of 2013, NTA has been working on this issue with NPCA and other travel-sector partners, including the American Recreation Coalition, the Southeast Tourism Society and the Destination Marketing Association International. These organizations have been joined in a determined, united effort to keep the FLREA revenue stream in place.

“Our group met with Assistant Interior Secretary for Policy Rhea Suh and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis in August,” said Simon. “We all understood the importance of FLREA as a key component of keeping the federal lands management agencies moving forward.”

Simon joined Director Jarvis yesterday as a witness at a joint hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committees on Oversight & Government Reform and Natural Resources, focused on National Park Service operations during the government shutdown. Using information gathered from NTA members, Simon testifiedabout the impact the shutdown had on the business of tour operators, tour suppliers and destinations and other business elements in the travel sector.

“It has been a delight to work with NTA,” Obey said. “The shutdown demonstrated, loud and clear, the importance of parks to the national tourism economy—and the importance of tourism to so many communities across the country.”

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