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NMMA looks to create more outdoor recreation offices

With seven states remaining in legislative session this late in the year, the NMMA state advocacy team is continuing to engage on a range of policies, while analyzing some of the major issues that surfaced during the 2019 legislative sessions. In 2019, several states established outdoor recreation offices, bringing the total to 16, and NMMA and the association’s coalition partners said they will work to expand this number in 2020.

Outdoor recreation offices play a critical role in increasing outdoor recreation participation by working with local communities to improve infrastructure, coordinate recreation efforts statewide, and promote the benefits of outdoor recreation among the citizens of their state. This year, NMMA joined with several other groups to encourage governors and legislatures in six states to create new Offices of Outdoor Recreation. NMMA said this rapid success is due to the clear economic and societal benefits that arise when more people participate in outdoor recreation.

The six new state offices, and the 10 enacted before them, face groundbreaking challenges. To help them thrive and learn from one another, the National Governors Association (NGA) recently launched the Outdoor Recreation Learning Network. The network will help governors and their staff leverage their states’ outdoor recreation resources to advance economic, workforce, health, and environmental benefits.

The NGA’s Center for Best Practices will partner with state outdoor recreation directors to convene governors, their staff, and other state officials to spotlight strategies that states can use to advance outdoor recreation. It will focus on critical issue areas including conservation, stewardship, education, workforce training, economic development, infrastructure, public health, equity, and wellness.

Brief summaries on the recently created offices are below:

  • New Mexico – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation in early March to create the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division. As Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, Axie Navas will create an Outdoor Equity Grant Program, the first of its kind in the United States. The grant program will target funds toward low-income youth and partner with private companies for a ripple effect some believe could reshape the state over coming generations.
  • Michigan – Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced in May that she created the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry. Housed in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in partnership with Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the office will be overseen by the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council, which was established in 2018. In September, Brad Garmon was appointed Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry. On Garmon’s first official day, he spoke to NMMA and its members during Michigan Fly-In about his commitment to promoting the outdoor recreation industry as a backbone of the state’s economy and working with manufacturers to tackle workforce development and other challenges.
  • Nevada – Governor Steve Sisolak signed AB486 in early June, establishing the Division of Outdoor Recreation within the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The division will coordinate recreational programing across the state’s departments of tourism, wildlife, and economic development. It also will coordinate and promote the states outdoor recreation policy with federal and local entities.
  • Wisconsin – In early July, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers created the Office of Outdoor Recreation within Wisconsin Tourism – an important initiative to expand outdoor recreation opportunities. The governor expects the Wisconsin office to engage a new and diverse generation of Wisconsinites with the outdoors and use recreation and tourism to strengthen local economies. Wisconsin is one of the first Midwest states to create a recreation office.
  • Virginia – Governor Ralph Northam created an Office of Outdoor Recreation on July 18 – a commitment to strengthen an already crucial part of the Old Dominion’s economy, increase collaboration, and bring new investment to this vital industry. The office will be housed under the Department of Commerce and Trade.
  • New Hampshire – Governor Chris Sununu signed legislation in early October establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development within the Department of Business and Economic Affairs. The new office will be dedicated to connecting the state’s well-known outdoor lifestyle to economic growth policies. New Hampshire was the sixteenth state to create a recreation office or taskforce.

If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact NMMA vice president of state government relations, David Dickerson at ddickerson@nmma.org, NMMA director of state government relations, Libby Yranski at lyranski@nmma.org, NMMA policy and engagement manager for the Great Lakes region, Jill Sims at jsims@nmma.org, or NMMA policy and engagement manager for the southeast, Lee Gatts at lgatts@nmma.org.

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