Zinke signs order to expand recreational opportunities

WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has ordered his agency to expand recreational opportunities on public lands and waterways.

An order signed Wednesday directs the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to develop plans within 90 days that focus on expanding recreational opportunities. The order also directs bureau heads to designate a full-time employee to oversee recreation.

Zinke said the order follows through on his oft-stated goal to “refocus on Interior’s long-standing but recently forgotten recreation mission.”

Americans are fortunate to have “amazing public lands and waters to carry out our tradition of outdoor recreation,” Zinke said. But he said the Interior Department must continue to create opportunities to increase access.

Zinke named senior adviser Rick May to oversee recreational policy across the department.

The order follows one Zinke signed in September to expand hunting and fishing on federal lands. He said it would improve wildlife management and conservation.

Environmentalists dismissed the hunting directive as “a do-nothing order,” noting that the public already has the right to hunt and fish on federal lands. States have primary authority to regulate hunting and fishing in those areas.

Outdoor-recreation groups hailed the latest directive, saying it recognizes the importance of outdoor recreation for the U.S. economy, particularly in rural areas, and for the physical and mental health of all Americans.

“Outdoor recreation is an economic engine” that produces 2 percent of the U.S economy and is growing at a faster rate than the economy as a whole, said Frank Hugelmeyer, vice chairman of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, an industry group.