This week, the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced a new recreation advisory committee that will advise him on “public-private partnerships across all public lands, with the goal of expanding access to and improving infrastructure on public lands and waterways,” according to a press release.
The panel, called the “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, primarily comprises members from industry and the motorized community, including hospitality, manufacturers, and hotel chains.
Though these advisors are important voices on public lands issues, Outdoor Alliance was surprised that no voices from the human-powered outdoor recreation community were included. More than 100 million Americans engage in human-powered outdoor recreation every year, from backpacking to surfing to skiing to climbing. These are a primary use of our public lands, and a key constituency among the outdoor recreation community, along with motorized users.
Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance, served for several years on an advisory committee for the Forest Service. He noted “The diversity of viewpoints at the Forest Service’s advisory committee was instrumental to our success. Diverse viewpoints are the best way to serve the public interest. There’s a missed opportunity on Interior’s Recreation Advisory Committee for motorized users, businesses, and human-powered outdoor recreation groups to work together and learn from one another.”
Advisory councils provide insight to land management agencies from the perspectives of public land stakeholders. The International Mountain Bicycling Association said, "With well over 50 million Americans annually enjoying riding mountain bikes, tens of thousands of miles of trails open to bikes on BLM lands and significant benefit to local economies, public health and wellness and youth engagement, it’s reasonable to expect that Secretary Zinke would’ve included a representative of human powered recreation such as mountain biking on his newly formed Outdoor Recreation Advisory Panel. Sadly, it was not, yet we remain hopeful that this was simply an oversight and will be corrected soon."
“While I understand the challenge of creating a representative advisory group that is small enough to be workable, I would encourage Secretary Zinke to include representatives from the human-powered outdoor recreation community in order to have a complete perspective on the uses and opportunities of our public lands,” says Brady Robinson, Access Fund Executive Director.
Surfrider Foundation, which represents the interests of more than half a million people who surf and are invested in coastal protection, said “By failing to include a single representative from non-motorized (or human powered) recreation, Secretary Zinke is showing how out of touch he is with the majority of Americans who enjoy our nation's public lands and waters. Activities like hiking, beach going, and paddling are enjoyed by millions of Americans whose voices need to be represented."
Luther Propst, Outdoor Alliance’s Board Chair, said “Local voices like county commissioners and local recreation businesses, especially in communities that adjoin public lands, would have been a valuable addition to the Outdoor Recreation Committee.”