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Congressman Pushing Legislation To Require National Park Gift Shops To Carry "Made In America" Items


A congressman from New York has introduced legislation that would require that items in gift shops and visitor centers across the National Park System be made in America. The Works Progress Administration reproductions Doug Leen creates in the form of posters, stickers, and notecards would fit the bill.

A congressman from New York hopes to bolster pride in America, and boost American manufacturers, by pushing legislation that would require gift shops throughout the National Park System to carry items made in America.

“When I walk into one of the gift shops at our monuments or national parks, it’s deeply deflating that nearly every item – from American flag mugs to Theodore Roosevelt teddy bears – comes with a ‘Made in China’ sticker,” said Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York. “If we want American manufacturing to thrive again, then we need to show that we believe in it. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to bring ‘Made in the USA’ back to our nation’s proudest sites.”

The legislation, the American Parks, American Products Act, was introduced last Thursday. It would require that all items sold in gift shops, and visitors centers within the National Park System be made in America.

According to the congressman's staff, a large number of items sold at national parks and monuments are produced abroad, many in China. The current U.S. trade deficit with China, his staff noted, is at a record high with a $273 billion trade gap between what the U.S. imports versus exports from China. The overall U.S. trade deficit is $497 billion and that was projected to grow in 2011.

According to ABC News, “Economists say that if every one of us spent an extra $3.33 on U.S.-made goods every year, it would create nearly 10,000 new jobs in this country.”

Congressman Israel's staff says the Park Service administers more than 500 concessions contracts, with a gross annual valuation of more than $1 billion.

However, his staff could not say Friday what it would cost park concessionaires and cooperating associations to switch from items made abroad to those made in America.

Back on Long Island in the congressman's district, union leaders praised the legislation.

“The Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, would like to thank Congressman Israel for his commitment to promoting American made products.  His efforts will support the livelihoods of millions of hard-working Americans, including union members, who are capable of building, maintaining and servicing the American economy," said Roger Clayman, the executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor. "There are 25 million people in our country who need full-time work, and there is plenty of work to be done."

New York, alone, has 22 units of the National Park System that were visited by more than 17.5 million people in 2010, according to the Democrat's staff.

In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the “Buy American Act” into law, his staff noted. The legislation created a preference for American goods in government purchases. The American Parks, American Products Act  follows the precedent set by FDR of encouraging domestic manufacturing and job creation through government purchases, it added.


Great way to put gift shop clerks out of work.

I'm afraid there are gonna be a whole lot of empty shelves in gift shops.  I try very hard to "buy American" in everything I shop for, but it's a terribly frustrating experience.  I spend a lot of extra time looking at labels, and almost never find the prized "Made in U.S.A." logo on anything.

Even our food -- more and more of it -- is coming from overseas somewhere.  I'm afraid my children and grand kids will soon be in the same shape with food that we're now in with oil.

I'll support this idea, impractical as it may seem.  Someone has to try to do something.  But let's not stop with just national parks.

I think the real question is if people want to pay the prices associated with only having products that are "Made in the USA"?
Why not stock both and let people make the decision.  Are people too stupid to make a rational decision on this matter?

  It's about time do hope this gets through.

The biggest problem with the legislation is going from a no "Made in America" requirement to a 100% MIA mandate all at once. This has the potential to really hurt concessionaires and Park-operated bookstores. I would be supportive of a structured introduction of MIA over a defined period of time. There also needs to be clear definitions of Made in America means. Is a guidebook written by an American author and printed abroad MIA? This is a very complex issue, one I'm confident Rep. Israel has not fully considered (though it probably makes him popular with many constituents at a crucial re-election time).

You raise some good points, Volknitter. There are many fine nuances to the congressman's proposal that indicate it might not have been entirely well-thought out.

Here at the Traveler we'll be glad to help point readers to "Made in America" items they can find in national park stores. If you make such items, or know of companies that do, have them contact us at [email protected] . We'll see if we can't put together a list.

I wonder if there is a difference in the number of products made overseas between concessionaires and cooperating associations. Cooperating Associations are nonprofits while concessionaires are profit-making companies who pay to run stores in the park.
I also wonder if there's a different emphasis between the two groups. I know that Great Smoky Mountains Association runs bookstores, not gift shops. Of course, we have mugs and bears - what's the Smokies without bears?
When I enter a new park bookstore/gift shop, I always ask the staff "Who runs your bookstore"?
Danny Bernstein

I've worked in one of Xanterra's gift shops at the Grand Canyon.  Many, but not all, the items were made overseas.  The Native American items were not.  One problem could be that not all items are available from American manufacturers.  I can't think off hand of which items are like that, but I know I've read about the impossibility finding certain items that are American-made.  I would like to see more emphasis put on American jobs, but when American companies outsource their jobs to other countries to save money, some responsibility needs to be on the hands of those companies.

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