New quietly approved rule allows companies like McDonald’s to sponsor and advertise in national parks

When seeking an escape from the bustle of daily life and the marketing messages that bombard us everywhere we go. from our kids’ TV shows to the local grocery store, many of us head to the great outdoors. Out in nature with an abundance of fresh air and clean water, and surrounded by plenty of greenery, we relish the chance to unwind and unplug.

If your idea of “getting away from it all” entails visiting a national park, however, you might soon find that it is less of an escape from corporate America than it once was. While you were busy enjoying the holidays with your family and friends, a controversial set of rules was quietly granted approval that will allow advertisements to intrude on the parks’ natural beauty.

Order lifts ban on ads in national parks

The new order signed by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis on December 28, puts an end to the ban on commercial advertising in national parks and removes restrictions on naming rights. The order, which is known as Order #21 on Donations and Philanthropic Partnerships, expands commercial contracts with private firms and corporate sponsorships. (RELATED: Read more examples of total stupidity at Stupid.news)

The National Park Service controls 412 parks, monuments, recreational areas and battlefields that together cover 84 million acres of land, which means an influx of new marketing opportunities will be opened up to corporate sponsors. The National Park Service recently said it was launching a fundraising campaign to the tune of $350 million; the federal budget set aside nearly $3 billion for the agency in 2016.

Public outcry

More than 200,000 people have signed a petition against the controversial move. Kristen Strader, the coordinator of the advocacy group, Public Citizen, who organized a campaign against these proposed reforms, said the move was “disgraceful.” In addition to the petition, hundreds of individuals have lodged official objections with the National Park Service.

Public Citizen joined forces with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood to publish public comments on the proposal after the Parks Service failed to do so. They say that 78 percent of commenters were opposed to the policy.

“Now that this policy has been finalized, park visitors soon could be greeted with various forms of advertisements, like a sign reading ‘brought to you by McDonald’s’ within a new visitor’s center at Yosemite, or ‘Budweiser’ in script on a park bench at Acadia,” Strader said.

The park service is now trying to allay people’s fears by implying that the public does not fully understand the order. While it will allow donors to be recognized by the parks with labels on some items, corporations and other types of sponsors will not be allowed to rename parks. They also point out that logos and ad language will not be allowed. They liken these provisions to those found in hospitals, museums and universities whereby certain rooms might be temporarily renamed in recognition of a donor that supported renovations, for example. The NPS director must approve of all signage.

Despite these assurances, opponents insist that the move is opening up our national parks to a previously unseen amount of commercial influence, and many fear this is only the beginning. This approach embodies much of what is wrong with America these days. Commercialization already reaches us everywhere we go, and the value of nature is being increasingly marginalized in favor of the all-important bottom line. Whether it’s the push by Big Pharma to make people think their toxic prescriptions are superior to the healing plants provided by the earth, or the ongoing global deforestation to clear land for other money-making endeavors, governments around the world are turning a blind eye to corporate tactics that destroy our planet’s natural resources and beauty.

Sources include:

CommonDreams.org

FoxNews.com

Consumerist.com

AJC.com