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Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke oversees Tuesday’s roundtable. Also shown (L) Ind. Sen. Todd Young and Ind. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski

At a Tuesday (July 18) event with members of Indiana’s Congressional delegation, and representatives from America’s outdoor recreation industry, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced his intent to create a new advisory committee that will focus on expanding public-private partnerships on America’s public lands.

According to a statement, the Secretary hosted a roundtable meeting which focused on leveraging public-private partnerships in order to improve visitor experiences on public lands and waters, while also helping to reduce the Department’s maintenance backlog. Public-private partnerships are already employed extensively across the National Park Service (NPS) and other agencies, from managing campgrounds and restaurant management to providing kayak and RV rentals.

“One of my top priorities is to expand recreational access to public lands and waters. Today, I’m excited to announce that, for the first time, the Department of the Interior will host a recreation advisory committee 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,” said Secretary Zinke. “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.”

“Northern Indiana is the ‘RV Capital of the World,’ so Hoosiers know just how vital outdoor recreation is to growing our economy and creating good jobs for American workers,” said Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski. “This opportunity to boost investment in outdoor tourism through public-private partnerships is a turning point for keeping America’s parks open for business and building even more American-made RVs and boats. I look forward to working with Secretary Zinke to ensure RV and boat manufacturers continue to play a key role in strengthening outdoor recreation and our nation’s economy.”

“It was an important meeting to communicate our respective views about the need to provide high quality, contemporary visitor services in our National Parks. NPHA members stand ready to support our NPS partners in any way possible. After meeting with Secretary Zinke, today National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) members are more committed than ever to provide a broad range of high quality services to ensure NPS visitors have amazing experiences,” said Terry MacRae, chairman, National Park Hospitality Association.​ ​“We are proud to be good partners of the National Park Service today, making park visits great experiences. With a little help from the agency, we can be great partners, applying contemporary skills and strategic investments.”

“We’ve honed our skills working with the military across the nation and the world. Now we are focusing on national parks – providing great connectivity to park visitors at zero cost to taxpayers. With this connectivity, we can help deliver vital information, great interpretive information and even help visitors contribute to the places they love,” said Tim Rout, CEO, AccessParks.

“Secretary Zinke’s support of public-private partnerships will help expand access to public lands for outdoor recreation, update recreation sites, and reduce the maintenance backlog within our public lands and waters, which aligns perfectly with the needs and interests of the boating industry and our partners in the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR),” said National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) President Thom Dammrich. “Working with our partners in ORIR we are helping to identify real-world solutions to improve boater access across the country, while generating awareness among key decision makers in Washington of boating’s significant impact in the lives of the American people. We’re proud to be able to showcase the more than 35,000 U.S. businesses that make up the recreational boating industry and speak on their behalf, as we work together to protect boating for the millions of American boaters and the industry that produces the products that help them enjoy the lifestyle they love.”

Roundtable participants gave specific examples about how public-private partnerships can make the outdoor recreation experience even better, and how the economy can be impacted by the tens of thousands of American manufacturing jobs these products support. Members of the outdoor industry presented a variety of proposals to the Interior, including:

  • Expanding Wi-Fi connectivity in parks.
  • Upgrading visitor accommodations.
  • Expanding visitor services.

Outdoor recreation is vital to the economic and physical well-being of America and its citizens. According to industry analysis, the outdoor recreation industry generates $887 billion in direct spending and supports 7.6 million jobs across all 50 states.

“Not everyone can get to the backcountry and sleep in a hammock tethered to a rock wall. We need to encourage families and folks of all interest levels to enjoy our parks and other outdoor areas, making our land accessible to them,” said Zinke. “We have wonderful partners who proudly make their outdoor products in America. We can leverage these partners to help address the maintenance backlog on things like boat ramps, RV hookups, campgrounds, and cafeterias as long as the government is a willing collaborator.”

Government officials and outdoor recreation industry leaders representing the following organizations participated in the events:

Government Officials

  • Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke
  • Sen. Todd Young – Indiana
  • Congresswoman Jackie Walorski – Indiana, 2nd District
  • Congressman Jim Banks – Indiana 3rd District
  • Todd Willens, Acting Assistant Secretary Fish and Wildlife and Parks
  • Mike Reynolds, Acting Director of the National Park Service
  • Greg Sheehan, Acting Director of U.S. Fish Wildlife and Parks
  • John Ruhs, Acting Deputy Director of the Bureau of Land Management
  • Doug Domenech, Senior Adviser to the Secretary

Made in America Partners

  • Julie Broadway – President – American Horse Council
  • Derrick Crandall – President – American Recreation Coalition
  • Jay McAninch – CEO & President – Archery Trade Association
  • Kirk La – Chairman & CEO – BoatU.S
  • Terry MacRae – CEO – Hornblower Cruises
  • Edward Klim – President – International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association
  • Tim Buche – President & CEO – Motorcycle Industry Council
  • Phil Ingrassia – President – Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
  • Frank Hugelmeyer – President – Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
  • KC Walsh – CEO – Simms Fishing in Bozeman, MT & American Sportfishing Association
  • Tim Rout – CEO – AccessParks
  • Thomas Dammrich – President – National Marine Manufacturers Association
  • Duane Taylor – Exec Director – National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council