On the heels of work by the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR), of which NMMA is a leading member, the U.S. Department of the Interior is now devoting important new resources to outdoor recreation on America's public lands and waters. Secretary Ryan Zinke yesterday announced the creation of a Recreation Advisory Committee to help improve visitor experiences through expanded public-private partnerships--something ORIR and NMMA are thrilled to see come to life. The committee will be "dedicated to looking at public-private partnerships across all public lands, with the goal of expanding access to and improving the infrastructure on public lands." What's more, the Secretary appointed former Navy SEAL Captain Rick May as a new Senior Advisor 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," said Secretary Zinke. "By forming this committee, I look forward to hearing from the best and the brightest in our private sector on how to improve the public experience on our federal lands and waters by expanding access for all Americans. 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."
"Helping ensure our nation's public waterways and lands are not only accessible but enjoyable is a key step to ensuring Americans get outdoors. NMMA 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 Thom Dammrich, president of NMMA. "This is an exciting time for our industry to be collaborating with the ORIR, the Recreation Advisory Committee, and May on such a meaningful mission to help Americans discover the outdoors."
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in economic impact and supports 7.6 million jobs across the country. The creation of the Recreation Advisory Committee and May's appointment – combined with numerous other meetings, declarations and events – are important steps in harnessing the might of the outdoor recreation economy, and shows the Department's commitment to supporting its continued growth.
"We used to have a Bureau of Recreation – we're bringing recreation back," Secretary Zinke said. "So, I've hired a former Navy SEAL captain to evaluate our public lands and look at the recreation opportunities, so the American public can enjoy our lands."
The committee will offer new opportunities for experienced and committed supporters of the Great Outdoors to collaborate with the Secretary and other Interior officials on a wide range of issues. The duties of the Committee are strictly advisory and will consist of, but not be limited to, providing recommendations including policies and programs 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 the collected fees.
- Improve interpretation using technology.
- Create better tools and/or opportunities for Americans to discover their lands and waters.
These actions are the result of numerous meetings between the Department of the Interior and the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR). 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 Secretary 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.
Read the Department of Interior press release here.