Outdoor recreation took center stage on Capitol Hill March 7. The Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable held briefings for staffers from both the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate, introducing the newly formed organization itself and detailing the tremendous economic impact of outdoor recreation within the United States.
ORIR representatives reported that outdoor recreation generates $646 billion in direct economic spending and supports some 6.1 million jobs in the U.S. And they explained that there are great opportunities to increase that impact in the future by expanding access to healthy, active fun outdoors on America’s public lands and waters. They also briefed Congressional staffers about ORIR’s key goals, which include:
- Fast tracking the implementation of the recently enacted Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act;
- Prioritizing recreation-related infrastructure improvements in federal agency budgets;
- Establishing more public-private partnerships to address maintenance backlogs on public lands;
- Achieving better balance between recreation and conservation in federal agency decisions; and
- Developing and deploying a digital information strategy for outdoor recreation on federal lands.
“As an outcome of cuts in federal spending, many federal agencies are reducing or eliminating recreational opportunities,” said Archery Trade Association President Jay McAninch. “The ORIR member industries believe this is tragic, and are offering private investments on public lands as a way to provide all Americans with the chance to recreate outdoors – an American birthright. Our industry’s view is this a much-needed stimulus for the Federal lands which are solely lacking in welcoming our citizens outdoors.”
“An Eisenhower-era infrastructure and public lands management approach will not meet the needs of a 21st century consumer,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the RV Industry Association. “That is why we were on Capitol Hill, introducing the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable to the Senate and House of Representative and sharing our ideas about policy and regulatory reforms necessary to grow the outdoor recreation economy.”
The ORIR also delivered another key message: tight federal budgets should not be allowed to reduce access to public lands and waters or diminish the quality of outdoor recreation experiences. Solutions to budget-related challenges involving partnerships and private investment have long been a tradition on the nation’s public lands and need to be embraced.
The well-attended briefings opened doors to improved communication and partnerships between ORIR and Congressional offices that will continue to raise Congressional awareness of the importance of outdoor recreation and encourage actions to improve recreational opportunities on America’s public lands and waters.