U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has signed two secretarial orders continuing his efforts to prioritize the Department of Interior’s recreation mission and increase access to public lands.
Secretarial Order 3366 directs certain Interior bureaus to create and deliver plans to the department within 90 days that focus on developing or expanding recreational opportunities on public lands and waterways.
This order also directs bureau heads to designate one full-time employee charged to oversee recreational opportunities.
“From my first day on the job, I have made it abundantly clear that we are going to refocus on Interior’s long-standing but recently forgotten recreation mission,” Zinke said. “We are incredibly fortunate, as Americans, to have amazing public lands and waters to carry out our tradition of outdoor recreation but the Department must continue to create opportunities to increase access for these pursuits.”
The secretary’s actions put in place a system that will elevate the priority of outdoor recreation on public lands and waters managed by the Department of Interior, said Thom Dammrich, the president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
"The secretary’s action recognizes the importance of outdoor recreation for our economy, particularly rural economies, and for the physical and mental health of all Americans," Dammrich said. "His actions will help grow outdoor recreation and ensure that fun in the outdoors remains central to the American lifestyle. The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable pledges our support to the secretary in his efforts to elevate the department’s commitment to outdoor recreation.”
Outdoor recreation is an economic engine that produces 2 percent of the U.S. GDP and is growing at a faster rate than the U.S. economy as a whole, said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the RV Industry Association.
"With the right public policies, outdoor recreation will continue to be an American economic engine for years to come," Hugelmeyer said. "The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and its member associations applaud the announcements by Secretary Zinke as a common sense plan to elevate the importance of outdoor recreation on public lands and waters throughout the Department of the Interior. This is an important step towards improving the visitor experience on public lands and waters across the country."
The recreation industry looks forward to cooperating with the department to offer visitors to parks, refuges and other special places great experiences, said Derrick Crandall, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.
"The result of better and modernized visitor infrastructure which will contribute to a renaissance of rural communities and a renewed commitment by all Americans to the strong conservation ethic our nation has shared with the world," Crandall said. "We thank Secretary Zinke for putting a new emphasis on welcoming enjoyment of our public lands and waters and embracing new skills and new ideas to make visits compatible with protecting our natural and historic resources.”
The bureaus are also asked to provide recommendations for improving and streamlining relevant permitting requirements for guides and outfitters and facilitated outdoor recreation providers and to improve contracting processes for recreation-specific concessioners.
“Whether your favorite activity is kayaking on a river, riding an ATV on sand dunes, jogging on a trail or hunting on a refuge—recreating on public lands and waters is good for the mind, body and soul,” Zinke said. “And it is also incredibly vital to local economies who rely on recreation spending to help create jobs.”
Secretarial Order 3365 establishes the position of senior national advisor to the secretary for recreation to ensure deliberate and active coordination of recreational policy in the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The position will be filled by Rick May, who currently serves as a senior advisor to the secretary.
May, who joined Interior in November 2017, is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL Captain and decorated veteran who served in the Iraq War.
Since his departure from active duty in 2010, he has worked with wounded veterans in various types of recreational activities, helping them to reintegrate back into mainstream America.
May is a graduate of Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and he also holds a Master of Arts in Human Resource Management.
“Rick is the absolute best person for this job,” Zinke said. “The work he has done in helping disabled veterans connect with the outdoors through recreation opportunities speaks for itself."
As a former SEAL, Zinke said May has the leadership needed to help the department chart its course in making recreation a priority again.
"First, I'm truly honored and grateful for the confidence that Secretary Zinke has placed in me to hold this position," May said. "The power of recreation can not be overstated, and its ties to overall health and well-being are undeniable. It is my mission to get more Americans out to enjoy our great public lands, and I look forward to increasing access and opportunity for each and every one of them."
The secretarial orders come on the heels of Secretary Zinke selecting members of the newly created “Made In America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee. A primary charge to the committee is to advise the Secretary on public-private partnerships across all public lands, with the goal of expanding access to and improving the infrastructure on public lands and waters.