Dept. of Interior prioritizes recreation access

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Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Interior released Secretarial Order 3373 — Evaluating Public Access in Bureau of Land Management Disposals and Exchanges. The National Marine Manufacturers Association said the legislation should help prevent the sale of public lands that are important to outdoor recreation and ensure that access would be a stronger consideration in land exchanges.

The order prioritizes recreation access when BLM land is being considered for disposal, exchange and acquisition under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Since FLPMA was enacted in 1976, remote BLM parcels have been identified for disposal or exchange for what have been considered higher-quality parcels. This lets BLM manage higher-priority locations.

Last week’s passing of order 3373, however, is critical to recreational industries like boating.

“This secretarial order is important,” Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president, government and legal affairs for NMMA told Trade Only Today. “Before it was issued, there has never been a directive ensuring that BLM parcels that are important to recreation were not exchanged or disposed of without taking into account its recreational value. Now, if the disposal of a parcel would weigh heavily against public access, this order might stop that from happening.”

Vasilaros continued, “The fact that the Secretary of the Interior is talking about recreation means that recreation is being thought of and prioritized within the Administration. We’ve been hoping to change the culture of the Department of the Interior and now we’re seeing it happening through the highest levels.”

In a statement, Jessica Wahl, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable said “more lands with recreation assets will remain public and new areas will be identified for recreation access,” thanks to order 3373.

“Access is key to jobs and local economies, especially in rural communities,” added Wahl. “We appreciate Interior’s attention to the important relationship between the recreation economy and our public lands and waters.”