The Johnny Behind the Rocks Recreation Zone public land near Lander has been withdrawn from mining, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced Thursday.

The Department of Interior's U.S. Bureau of Land Management will withdraw the land for 20 years for the protection of recreational and cultural resources, Zinke said.

The department has set priorities for increasing access to public lands. Earlier this year, it extended the mineral withdrawal in the Whiskey Mountain area near Dubois.

"Public lands are for public use, whether that's energy development, hiking, biking, or grazing," Zinke said. "But, I've always said that some places are appropriate for mineral development and some places are not. I think Johnny Behind the Rocks is a perfect example of this balance."

The public land order published in the Federal Register on Friday withdraws 4,820.75 acres of federal land from location and entry under the U.S. mining laws, but not from leasing under the mineral leasing laws.

Public input gathered during a formal comment period in 2016 showed broad support for the Johnny Behind the Rocks mineral withdrawal.

Rick May, Senior National Advisor for Recreation, participated in a biking tour of the trails Thursday.

"From fishing in the splendid waters of the American Northeast to biking the rugged trails of the Johnny Behind the Rocks Recreation Zone in Lander, Wyoming, enjoyment of the great outdoors is an American tradition like no other," May said. "We must be vigilant in defending this heritage, especially for young people as we raise the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. It was great to see fellow bikers on the trail."

The BLM worked with Lander Cycling, the International Mountain Bike Association and the community to enhance the local recreational area southeast of Lander.

The Johnny Behind the Rocks Trail System, located off Highway 287 near Lander, provides mountain bikers and runners with high desert experiences in a compact area.

Most of the system is located on routes that climb to and traverse long and scenic ridgelines. The trails wind and meander through typical Great Basin terrain that ranges from clusters of pinyon-juniper woodlands and open sagebrush meadows while offering spectacular views of the Wind River Mountain Range. The trail is usable much of year, even when recreation opportunities in other areas are limited by weather.

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