Secretary of the Interior Announces New Plans for Easier Access to Public Lands For Some Youth-Serving Organizations

March 21, 2016
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

On March 4, 2016, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, announced a new initiative to decrease barriers for disadvantaged and under-resourced youth to access America’s public lands and waters through expediting the public lands permit process. Read the Secretary's full press release.

Through the process of a “Secretary’s Order," Secretary Jewell has directed the Department of the Interior bureaus to take concrete steps to facilitate outdoor experiences for groups of "disadvantaged, disabled or at-risk youth" by decreasing barriers for organizers of groups (such as camps) to obtain permits for access to lands and waters managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation.


Specifically, the initiative includes (but is not limited to):

  • Expediting the processing of permits, and decreasing permitting timelines
  • Encouraging flexibility in group size limits, and decreasing or waiving fees in order to support prompt access
  • Exploring alternatives to permitting requirements

Important note:  this Order does not apply to U.S. Forest Service lands as they fall under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  We understand that the Deptartment of Agriculture is considering a similar approach.  We will keep you posted on progress. 


The Order applies to organizations that meet the following criteria:

  • Program participants are all under the age of 26
  • At least 70 percent of the participants are economically disadvantaged and under-resourced youth, and meet one or more of the following criteria:
    • Out-of-school youth
    • In or aging out of foster care
    • Limited English proficiency
    • Homeless or have run away from home
    • At risk of leaving secondary school without a diploma
    • A former juvenile offender or at risk of delinquency
    • Youth with disabilities

Read more of the applicability details ― Secretary’s Order 3339

ACA Public Lands Agenda

The American Camp Association continues to partner with organizations in order to move forward our ACA Public Lands Position.  We support a legislative and regulatory approach to public lands that provides nonprofit and for-profit camps with fair and equal access to public lands under conditions and regulations that are consistent from one region to another, and provides access to public lands at a fair price — with simplified and reasonable fee structures — including those for camps based on public lands. Learn more about our Public Lands Agenda.