The Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in Post-War America: Legacy of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation
Part 5, Legacy of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation
With the creation of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in April 1962 and a declaration of intent published within the next month, Director Edward Crafts (who served in this capacity from 1962-1969) had only to set plans in motion. The BOR served primarily advisory and assistance roles to state-level and other federal agencies. It became involved in outdoor projects concerning parks, historic landmarks, forest and wildlife areas, dams and other water-control projects, and other public land and water sites. The bureau expanded to assist such groups as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, FFA, 4-H Clubs, non-profit and church camping and recreational organizations, and educational institutions.
The Bureau of Outdoor Recreation followed the advice of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission in many respects. At no point did the BOR steer from the course that had been set for it by the work of the ORRRC. The ORRRC advised that the BOR continue the surveys and research that the ORRRC had begun in its four years of operation. The BOR accomplished this and released annual reports containing data on resources, user studies, economics, and research methods. The BOR worked endlessly with Congress for the passing of legislation, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. This act served the purpose of a grants-in-aid program to promulgate and stimulate recreational growth for the states. The bureau consulted and assisted other federal agencies, especially those that fell under the Department of the Interior, such as the National Parks Service and the National Forest Service. The Bureau of Outdoor Recreation’s adoption of the principle of assisting state and local governments rather than dictating to them is exuded in the creation of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans.
As the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation began operations, Congress helped to give the Bureau a more permanent shape and rules by which it would operate. The Recreation Coordination and Development Act (also known as the Outdoor Recreation Act of 1963), passed by Congress on May 28, 1963, gave Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall the bureau’s first requirements. The Act was comprised of eight directives: Prepare and maintain a current inventory of the United States’ outdoor recreation needs and resources. Prepare a system of classifying outdoor areas. Create and maintain a nationwide outdoor recreation plan. Assist and cooperate with states, and political and private groups. Assist with regional cooperation with planning, acquiring, and developing outdoor recreational facilities. Sponsor, engage in, and help research and education programs. Propagate federal plans related to outdoor recreation, and encourage interdepartmental cooperation. And accept and use donation for outdoor recreation purposes. 
While the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation had great impact during its existence, its most profound and lasting affects can be found in two pieces of legislation, both of which are currently still in existence. The bureau saw to the creation and distribution of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the implementation of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans (SCORP) in each state, most of which have survived to present day. The Bureau of Outdoor Recreation helped to orchestrate the development of the Wilderness Act (1964), which set aside about thirty-six million acres as national park and wilderness areas.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was initially adopted in 1965 but has been continually amended to meet current needs. The Act was designed to provide financial aid to state and federal agencies involved in outdoor recreation. The Land and Water Conservation Fund received proceeds from admission of individuals into the national parks, the sale of season tickets to the national parks, and donations from individuals or groups.
Qualifying for funds was simple. A state had only to develop a statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan, which would subsequently be approved by the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. When a state applied for funds for a particular project, the Bureau would insure that the project met the guidelines of the state’s outdoor recreation plan and then deliver the funds. Funds were available to states for both urban and rural recreational needs. The idea of the SCORP was to use time and money more efficiently. The SCORP would keep the states focused on the most pressing of the outdoor recreation needs, rather than being sidetracked by lesser projects.
As with other states, Alabama developed a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Originally, this fell under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. More recently, however, responsibility for this and other such tasks has been directed to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Alabama’s first SCORP was issued in 1967 as a five-year plan. On each of the reports issued under the direction of the SCORP can be found some form of the following inscription: “The development and printing of this report were financed in part through a planning grant from the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, Department of the Interior, under provisions of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (Public Law 88-578).” Each of the reports also claims its purpose as being to provide interested parties with a comprehensible framework for Alabama’s SCORP.
The benchmark for the Bureau Outdoor Recreation with regard to interdepartmental cooperation, especially between federal and state agencies occurred in the Lake Charles project. Lake Charles is a state park completed in Arkansas in 1967 through the combined efforts of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, the National Forest Service, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The bureau’s major function in the project was to assist with planning and provide funding, which was acquired through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The creation in 1958 of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission and the subsequent creation of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation five years later were landmarks in American government. For the first time, the government took a long and in-depth look at what Americans were doing with their leisure time. The government observed the increasing participation by Americans in outdoor activities following World War II. However, access to outdoor recreational facilities was becoming increasingly problematic for many citizens, specifically those living in metropolitan areas.
The ORRRC studied thousands of surveys to determine the best methods of increasing the availability and efficiency of recreational facilities at local, state, and federal levels. The ORRRC provided many insights and offered numerous recommendations, the foremost of which was the creation of a new agency to oversee outdoor recreation. The Bureau of Outdoor Recreation was created for this task and never abandoned the guidelines and recommendations of the ORRRC. The BOR served as the medium through which federal government agencies would interact with state and local governments. The BOR oversaw planning, organization, and most importantly funding of many outdoor recreation projects, at all levels. Although the BOR is no longer in operation, outdoor recreation, at state and federal levels, continues to be affected by the policies and guidance once provided by the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation.
 Clodus Smith, Lloyd Partain, and James Champlin, Rural Recreation for Profit, (Danville, IL: Interstate Printers and Publishers, 1966), 248.
 “Outdoor Recreation Act of 1963, Public Law 88-29.” National Park Service: Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program. Available from www.nps.gov/akso/riversandtrails/authorities.htm. 1-2.
 Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (Volume 11): Potential Wild and Scenic Rivers Program for Alabama, (Auburn: Auburn University, October 1971), iii.