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Interior secretary outlines recreation advisory committee objectives

By Tim Hennagir

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke wants to tap the private sector’s best and brightest for their ideas on how to improve the public experience on federal lands and waters.

The “Made in America” Recreation Advisory Committee established Tuesday will advise and update Zinke on the status of public-private partnerships across all public lands, with the goal of expanding access to and improving infrastructure on public lands and waterways.

Zinke also appointed former U.S. Navy Seal Capt. Rick May as a new senior adviser to the secretary, focusing on outdoor recreation. 

“The spirit of American innovation and ingenuity is what built our country, and the Interior Department wants that same spirit and energy to resonate within the realm of outdoor recreation on our public lands,” Zinke said in a statement earlier this week. “We already have thousands of private partners who operate on federal lands. Whether it's the iconic Jammers in Glacier National Park, the historic El Tovar lodge at the Grand Canyon, or the kayaks that you can rent on the Potomac River, American workers are at the heart of helping American families experience our great outdoors.”

The members of the committee will meet twice annually and will be selected for their diverse backgrounds and their experiences with the recreational industry.

Prospective members will have knowledge utilizing public-private partnerships, providing recreational visitor experiences, developing and deploying infrastructure improvements, or a thorough understanding of recreational equipment.

The committee will provide recommendations that expand and improve visitor infrastructure developed through public-private partnerships, implement sustainable operations embracing fair, efficient and convenient fee collection and strategic use of collected fees, improve interpretation using technology, and create better tools opportunities for Americans to discover lands and waters.

“Helping ensure our nation's public waterways and lands are not only accessible but enjoyable is a key step to ensuring Americans get outdoors. The National Marine Manufacturers Association applauds Secretary Zinke and his team for understanding the significant impact the recreation economy has on the entire United States and the importance of modernizing our public lands and waters and what that will mean for the American people," said NMMA President Thom Dammrich,

"This is an exciting time for our industry to be collaborating with the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR), the Recreation Advisory Committee, and May on such a meaningful mission.”

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in economic impact and supports 7.6 million jobs across the country.

In April, senior officials from the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service met with more than 30 representatives of the outdoor recreation industry at Shenandoah National Park to discuss improving visitor experiences on America’s public lands and waters.

That meeting was followed by another April gathering where Zinke told recreation industry leaders he needed creative, bold thinking to help him deliver recreation experiences on Interior lands, overcoming such problems as congestion in areas like Yosemite Valley and unsustainable financial operations of recreation programs.

In July, the ORIR presented the Secretary and his team with nearly 30 ideas that can provide immediate and dramatic improvement to visitor experiences and reductions in deferred maintenance through private investments.

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