Democratic News

Mar 04 2016

New Secretarial Order Will Address Long-Standing Issue with Seattle YMCA Raised by Cantwell

Cantwell Applauds New Secretarial Order Promoting Access to America’s Public Lands for Under-Resourced Youth that Will Streamline the Permitting Process for Youth Organizations Like the Seattle YMCA

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Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) applauded the new secretarial order announced by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. The new order will decrease barriers to disadvantaged and under-resourced youth to access America’s public lands and waters by expediting the permit process.

“I cannot think of a better way to honor Doug Walker’s inspiring passion for our public lands than to continue his work getting kids outdoors. I applaud Secretary Jewell, along with the Forest Service, for opening the door to hundreds of youth and youth organizations like the Seattle YMCA to experience one of the most rewarding opportunities of American life,” Sen. Cantwell said.  

This issue materialized in Washington, when the Seattle YMCA was required to obtain an “outfitter/guide” permit because the Forest Service considered the YMCA a commercial entity. Additional regulations prevented the Seattle YMCA from being able to obtain the permit to bring groups of 8-11 children into national forests once a week throughout the year.

In February 2015, Sen. Cantwell questioned Forest Service Chief Tim Tidwell about providing nonprofit youth-serving groups like the YMCA with access to the national forests, noting “it seems to me if somebody from the YMCA or YWCA only wants to take ten people into the forests and educate them one Saturday morning that they should be able to do that.”

Chief Tidwell responded: “We need to look at being able to provide access so that it’s easy for folks to take school kids, YMCA, YWCA, up onto the national forest and the grasslands to be able to experience that. … [W]e need to find a way to make it easier for school groups, community groups and nonprofits to be able to get our youth out.”

This secretarial order does just that – specifying that certain actions to increase access will apply whenever an organization or individual certifies that it is seeking to access lands or waters managed by the Interior Department for visitors who are less than 26 years old and in groups of which at least 70 percent of participants are disadvantaged or under-resourced.