The RV industry’s prospects are directly linked to Bush administration policies that encourage public access to federal lands.
That was the key message Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President David J. Humphreys delivered to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton during the cabinet officer’s Aug. 19 tour of Monaco Coach Corp.’s facilities in Coburg, Ore.
For the record, Norton’s department oversees one of every five U.S. acres, including lands managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
But while her management policies have come under fire from environmental groups, including the National Parks Conservation Association and the Sierra Club, Humphreys had nothing but praise for Norton’s stewardship of public lands.
“These lands belong to the people, not the government,” Humphreys said. “Unfortunately for all of us, the last administration essentially uninvited people from the federal lands. Secretary Norton has changed that. RVers are now not only welcome, but she has come up with very, very innovative ways to make it easier for folks to visit federal lands through (online) reservations and things like that.”
Humphreys, also chairman of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), stressed that the entire travel and tourism industry depends on access to public lands for its economic well-being.
Norton, for her part, said the Bush administration sees the recent growth in RV sales as an indicator of the strength of the economy. “We recognize that much of our economy depends on tourism and recreation,” she said. “It’s also a very important part of the American lifestyle.”
While Monaco Chairman and CEO Kay Toolson is well known for his support of GOP politicians, Norton used her two-hour visit of the Monaco plant to promote “Take Pride in America,” an Interior Department program designed to encourage individuals, companies and communities to volunteer their time and talents to improve public parks, forests, grasslands, wildlife refuges and historic sites. Monaco is a co-sponsor of the Take Pride in America program.
“It’s in all of our best interests,” Toolson said, “to do what we can to keep America beautiful, to keep America safe and to keep America as the greatest place to live.”