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Don't Stand in the Way of NPS and Its Logos


Backtracking_by_foot_canoe_and_suba     An award-winning book, one that lures young and old to the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, has been stopped dead in its tracks by the National Park Service.
    Because the agency, which long has allowed use on road signs of the somewhat ubiquitous silhouette of the intrepid 19th century explorers pointing westward, won't stand to see Ben Long's book, Backtracking by Foot, Canoe and Subaru Along the Lewis & Clark Trail, use that image on its cover.
       The image did not grace the hardcover edition of the book, which according to the Missoulian newspaper has "won the Chinook Literary Prize, and was named best book of the year by the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association. It was quoted in Time magazine, received rave reviews in places such as the Chicago Tribune, was praised by noted authors, including Montana's own Rick Bass."
    Rather, the image appears on the cover of the paperback edition released back in June 2004.
    Mind you, it's not the image that's selling the books, it's the contents. But the Park Service apparently could care less. No small businessman is going to try to encourage more interest and visitation to one of the agency's 391 units by using that silhouette in a montage on the book's cover.     

   “The logo is the property of the federal government,” Kevin Crisler, an NPS employee who's been working on the “sign plan” for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, told the newspaper. “The biggest problem here is the logo's being used for a profit. That's the rule.”
     Now, I could perhaps understand the Park Service's point if Mr. Long or someone else had made up posters or postcards solely using the image and sold them, or if it was being used to fuel a cottage industry of Lewis and Clark T-shirt sales. But a book cover? One in which a Subaru wagon is cruising across the image?
    Of course, what's also ironic here is that I can easily use that silhouette in this story, because that's perceived as permitted "editorial use." And really, isn't that all Mr. Long's publisher is doing? Would money-making newspapers that print the historic trail's distinctive logo to accompany a story about the trail also receive a cease-and-desist letter?
Npslewisclark     And what about the commercial web sites out there that utilize the image, such as this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and ... well, you get the idea. Did they all pay a licensing fee? Or can they also expect a letter from Stephen Adams, trail administrator for the Park Service's Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
    Unfortunately, Mr. Long's publisher sees no out other than destroying all paperback editions of the book and canceling any future editions with a new cover, as the cost of recalling the unsold books precludes that possibility.
    Why don't you see if you can't help out Mr. Long and his publisher, and to demonstrate the book's popularity to the Park Service, by ordering the book on-line before they all vanish.


I saw this article this morning, by way of the NPS retirees' listserv, and commented on my own blog. It's a sad day when the Service seems to be more interested in "protecting its intellectual property" than in promoting awareness and appreciation of park resources. Ironically, nearly 30 years ago, when I was working at the brand-new Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, a real estate company set up shop selling properties right outside the boundary, using the name, "Cuyahoga National Park Realty." Their billboards even featured an arrowhead logo. The signs were still in place when I left in 1983, and I have no idea whether the agency ever did a damned thing about them. Somehow, there has to be a sensible medium course between tolerating that sort of abuse, and hassling a legitimate author who's writing about the parks.

I wouldn't have imagined this particular scenario, but why am I not surprised by the general wrong-headedness that seems to accompany almost every government decision these days? Elected/appointed officials are loose cannons more often than not, while the bureaucrats become increasingly bureaucratic.

Back when I was going through USFS FPO training, the Special Agent liked to tell story about how someone in the city was renting an imitation Smokey Bear costume for birthday parties and other events. Someone rented the costume for a party in a town park, apparently got drunk and behaved somewhat inappropriately. Of course, members of the general public in that park that day didn't realize that the Smokey was not a USFS employee, so when someone who was offended by the behavior, naturally they called the USFS to yell at someone. The costume shop owner was very surprised when the Special Agent and an LEO walked into his shop to confiscate the costume and cite him for illegal use of Smokey Bear - a CFR violation.

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