Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Monday the creation of a new national park advisory committee composed of business leaders in the outdoor recreation industry, according to the Department of the Interior (DOI).
Members of the “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee represent businesses and organizations that maintain close relationships with national parks and have a financial stake in seeing the park system, which is crumbling under $11.6 billion worth of deferred maintenance, restored.
The committee “is made up of the private sector’s best and brightest to tackle some of our biggest public lands infrastructure and access challenges,” Zinke said in a statement. “This Committee will help build on that legacy and provide valuable insight into addressing the maintenance backlog on our public lands. The Committee’s collective experience as entrepreneurs and business leaders provide unique insight that is often lost in the Federal government.”
Three of the 15 members of the new committee were flagged by DOI officials for potential conflicts of interest, but the Office of the Executive Secretary, Ethics Office, and the Division of General Law cleared and approved all nominees that now sit on the board, The Washington Post reported.
The liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) called the committee an “echo chamber for how public lands can be tools for private profit.”
“The group seems to have been handpicked to cheerlead for more motorized use of public lands, more roads through the backcountry and more taxpayer subsidies for hotels chains operating in the national parks,” CAP Public Lands Director Kate Kelly told WaPo.
Zinke declined nominees from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), an organization that criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to roll-back the designations of two national monuments in Utah. OIA advocates for outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking that do not involve motorized machines.
American Recreation Coalition CEO and National Park Hospitality Association counselor Derrick Crandall came up with the idea for a Made In America committee, though others have pushed for a similar group at least since the second term of former President Barack Obama, WaPo reported.
Crandall met with Zinke earlier this month and discussed creating the committee. Though about 200 advisory committees already exist for the DOI, “[Zinke] expressed that none of them were equipped to tell him what he really wanted to know,” Crandall told WaPo about the meeting.
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