Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) recently released a letter signed by 29 national outdoor recreation trade associations, supporting over 100,000 businesses, urging Congress to pass the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). This legislation would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the nation’s public lands maintenance backlog in order to support rural communities and rescue the outdoor recreation industry, made up of 90% small businesses, during this unprecedented downturn.
With supply chains stalled, retailers shuttered, parks closed, and trips and travel canceled, the $778 billion outdoor industry is uniquely impacted by COVID-19 mitigation efforts. An industry survey last week found that 79% of outdoor businesses have had to lay off or furlough employees, and that 89% are seeing decreased revenue. Traditionally representing 2.2% of the GDP, 5.2 million jobs and growing faster than the economy as a whole in every indicator, the industry is rallying together to urge Congress to pass GAOA and make smart fixes to the CARES Act to support this sector key to national economic recovery.
GAOA will fully fund LWCF, providing $900 million per year in investment in the public lands, parks and trails that are the backbone of the outdoor recreation economy. It would also address the growing maintenance backlog on public lands and waters. The bill will help to bolster recreation dependent communities as Americans seek to get outside away from crowds and practice safe social distancing in the coming months, and support business certainty today and a thriving outdoor recreation economy for years to come.
ORR’s executive director, Jessica Turner, added the following point amplifying the request:
“Before this crisis hit, Congress was poised to pass the most important piece of legislation to support outdoor recreation access in a century – the Great American Outdoors Act. As the nation shifts to longer-term economic investments and stimulus packages, we need Congress to act more than ever, to invest in our nation’s outdoor recreation infrastructure and get Americans outside and back to work. Through full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this bill would provide certainty for communities who are eager to invest in close-to-home park infrastructure, create opportunities for public access to the outdoors, and support the recreation economy. This will have a long-term economic impact on rural communities and will increase the outdoor experience tremendously once the worst of the pandemic is over.”
Read ORR’s full letter here.