In February 2005, the American Camp Association (ACA) Council of Delegates approved a position statement on public lands.
Public lands issues are an increasing challenge for many camps and are a priority focus of the ACA National Public Policy Committee. Public lands issues differ slightly in various regions of the country but the regulatory process and overarching concerns are the same. The primary federal agencies involved include: US Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management. The primary concerns for ACA are access, recognition of camp contributions to education and stewardship, and promotion of the camp community as partners and stakeholders whose input is essential in decision making concerning those lands.
Our first position statement on this issue was needed in order to address the current legislative and regulatory climate. We anticipate that any changes in public lands policy will be through regulatory changes — not legislation. However, there is a potential for an outdoor recreation act that may affect camps. ACA continually monitors federal legislation proposals and will keep members posted of any impending changes.
On a positive note, the U.S. Department of the Interior has expressed its desire to include a broader range of organizations in their discussions regarding public land use. ACA is hopeful that this action will bring about other changes that will result in more stakeholders (including camps) being able to participate in discussions/decisions concerning public land use.
ACA supports a legislative and regulatory approach to public lands that provides nonprofit and for-profit camps with fair and equal access to public lands under conditions and regulations that are consistent from one region to another and provides access to public lands at a fair price — with simplified and reasonable fee structures — including those for camps based on public lands. Furthermore, public land use strategies should also recognize the occasional need for new or short-term access by youth serving organizations. In addition, any legislative or regulatory design for public land use should recognize the contributions made by camps for the preservation and stewardship of natural resources and provide all stakeholders, including camps, with the opportunity to have input before decisions are made. Finally, ACA urges continued recognition that the public needs the support of organizations with outdoor expertise to experience public lands fully.
Originally published in the 2005 Spring issue of The CampLine.