In the Doghouse

Bears Not Beers: Don't Let Budweiser Invade Our National Parks

A crushed Budweiser can littering a forest.It is no secret that the National Park Service (NPS) is choked for funds. In its efforts to raise revenue, the service has struck a deal with Budweiser, allowing branded signs and sponsorships—an effort that a large coalition of public health, industry watchdog, and substance use prevention organizations condemned as “a mistake that should not be repeated.”

Public Citizen and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood led the group to co-sign an October 27th letter criticizing the partnership with megabrewer AB Inbev, makers of Budweiser. The group warns that alcohol branding in public parks will “encourage underage drinking and damage the reputation of national parks as safe spaces for children and families.”

The branding agreement was the brainchild of NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis. For almost 20 years, the service has adhered to Director’s Order 21, which prohibited donations from any product or company that would “reflect adversely on the NPS mission and image, such as alcohol or tobacco products.” However, last year, Jarvis led the Service to sign a $2.5 million deal with AB Inbev, allowing the brewer to use NPS icons such as the Statue of Liberty and promote Bud-branded events within the parks themselves. According to the Denver Post, Jarvis heralded the deal as “aligning the economic and historical legacies of two iconic brands.”

Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, dismissed the deal as accommodation to corporate interests. “This deal isn’t a slippery slope,” he told the Post. “It’s a bungy jump.”

Budweiser joins several other alcohol producers in seeking to align themselves with active, outdoor lifestyles. However, a brand as large as Budweiser has associated itself with many other things, most which the NPS should be reluctant to sign off on: stock cars; sexist iconography and language suggestive of sexual assault; and, notably, youth alcohol use. Bud and Bud Light alone may account for 20% of underage binge drinking

Importantly, alcohol companies have a documented history of using social responsibility and philanthropy to both whitewash their image and reach new markets. NPS should not be an accessory to this. Alcohol Justice is proud to be a co-signee on the letter, and calls on Director Jarvis to restore the integrity of Director’s Order 21—preserving our parks as a refuge from corporate interests, alcohol advertising, and youth exposure to an all-too-pervasive public health threat.

TAKE ACTION: sign the petition to Respect Our Parks.

READ MORE from Public Citizen.

FULL TEXT of the letter to the National Park Service.

An image of a granite face with hashtag Respect Our Parks