The Department of the Interior today announced it would hold five listening sessions and invite public comment on barriers that underserved communities and individuals may face in participating in recreation opportunities on Interior-managed public lands and waters. Feedback from the public will help inform the Department’s work to advance the administration’s America the Beautiful initiative that seeks to address inequitable access to nature and its benefits.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 13985, directing the federal government to pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.
“I believe that more people will truly care about our land, air, waters, animals, and outdoor places if they can experience them first hand. It’s up to all of us to make sure that happens in communities across the country,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “As we work to address inequitable access to the outdoors for communities of color and underserved communities, conversations and listening sessions like these will be crucial as we pursue the creation and stewardship of inclusive spaces that all people can access.”
A Federal Register notice available today invites Interior stakeholders, members of underserved communities, and the public to the five sessions that will take place from October 19 to October 27.
To facilitate discussion during the listening sessions, participants are requested to consider the following topics:
- What are the barriers to visiting public lands and waters managed by Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
- How can Interior remove or reduce barriers, for update policies, practices, or programs that underserved communities and individuals may face when they recreate or attempt to recreate on Interior-managed lands and waters?
- How can Interior establish and maintain connections to a wider and more diverse set of stakeholders representing underserved communities? What are the best ways to notify and engage underserved stakeholders about recreational opportunities?
In addition to listening sessions on advancing equity in recreation, Interior is also holding sessions around advancing equity in Tribal discretionary grants as well as procurement and contracting. Individuals interested in attending any of the listening sessions can register on the Department’s Office of Policy Analysis website. Anyone unable to make the listening sessions but interested in summitting comment can do so by visiting Regulations.gov and entering DOI-2021-0008 in the search bar to find the docket.