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Date:2021-03-22    Publisher:
Re: Supporting the outdoor recreation economy and recovery of individuals, communities, and outdoor companies in any upcoming pandemic response legislation


Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leaders McCarthy, McConnell and Schumer:

Our outdoor recreation economy generates $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs annually. The outdoor industry comprises 2.2 percent of the United States GDP and, prior to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, was growing faster than the economy. In addition, communities with access to outdoor recreation assets like trails, waterways, and parks of all types are attracting and retaining business investments, as more and more businesses rely on quality of life to attract employees.

Our system of parks and public lands being open for public use is critical for small and large retailers and outdoor businesses, along with the supply chain that serves them. Plus, these natural places bring quality of life to communities across the nation. Every part of this system has been interrupted by COVID-19, impacting the health and wellness of individuals, companies, and communities.

Outdoor Industry Association and our 1,300 member companies write to ask for your support for including provisions that will aid economic recovery for the outdoor industry and communities across the country in any upcoming rounds of pandemic economic response legislation.

Thank you for the actions you have already taken to support these businesses through the CARES Act. Many of our members were able to access CARES programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program that bought them some badly needed time, but their fates hinge in large part on the ability of their current and potential customers to get back outside.

As we look to recovery in the months ahead, more needs to be done to help our communities and the outdoor industry recover from the current economic shock through investments in recreation infrastructure which will provide more opportunities for all Americans to get outside. The last few weeks have shown that millions of Americans depend upon outdoor recreation opportunities for health and wellness. Now more than ever, we need the mental and physical health benefits that getting outside can provide. Investing in outdoor infrastructure as part of our economic recovery efforts will provide a powerful return for all Americans.

Specifically, we would like your support for the following:

Permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funding for the maintenance backlog across federal public lands: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act, which would finalize bipartisan and bicameral legislation that provides dedicated funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and resources to reduce the maintenance backlog on our public lands. This funding will have a long-term economic impact and will increase the visitor experience – a needed benefit for local tourism. Investing in LWCF has proven to double its investment in local economies and create thousands of jobs. Congress was close to passing this legislation due to extraordinarily broad bipartisan support. It makes even more sense now, with the public demand for outdoor recreation during the pandemic and with the economic, social, and health benefits that recreating outdoors provides.

Include permit streamlining: We support incorporating the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act (H.R. 787/S.1665) and the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (H.R. 3458/S. 1967) into any legislative stimulus package. Streamlining the federal permitting system is important to the health of the guiding and outfitting communities, which have been financially harmed by the ongoing pandemic. These bills would provide more access to outdoor recreation for millions of Americans who annually enjoy the outdoors via guided adventures. By reducing current regulatory red tape, guides and outfitters will more easily kick-start local tourism once Americans are able to access public lands.

Fund active transportation: We appreciate your commitment to infrastructure as an economic growth opportunity and, in doing so, would encourage you to include provisions that would increase funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. This type of funding helps local economies and provides people with safe, environmentally sensitive, and low-cost forms of transportation and recreation. We support the Transportation Alternatives Program and the Recreational Trails Program (among others) and are hopeful that any additional infrastructure funding would significantly increase funding levels for these important economic drivers.

Increased funding/expansion of Civilian Conservation Corps: Additional funding for expansion of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) will provide a combination of jobs for Americans and restoration and stewardship of our public lands. The program could be further expanded to reach more youth and more outdoor places and to include opportunities on state lands. This program could immediately be brought to scale to meet the needs of recently unemployed workers from various affected industries. The CCC could be rapidly deployed via existing cooperative agreements with federal agencies and state and local agencies.

Funding to states and local municipalities for building parks, trails, and other outdoor recreation amenities in underserved and under-resourced communities: Local and state tax revenues are significantly declining, yet the public needs local services. With the need to recreate close to home for health and wellness, the majority of Americans need access to parks, trails, and open spaces within a 10-minute walk or drive of their homes. This type of program is badly needed to help address the current inequities surrounding those who live near and reap the benefits of outdoor recreation, trail, and natural areas – and those who do not.

Prioritize policies to reduce carbon emissions: In consideration of transportation, energy, and infrastructure provisions, we would encourage you to use the opportunity to ensure policies are in place to reduce carbon emissions. Our industry relies on a healthy environment for those who love the outdoors to experience it to the fullest. Green infrastructure solutions not only sequester carbon and help mitigate the worst impacts of future natural disasters but also serve as places to recreate. We ask that you take a long-term view and work to ensure stewardship of our lands and oceans for future generations to enjoy.

As Congress moves forward with response and helping with the recovery from the ongoing pandemic and its economic impacts, we ask that you consider the critical role our public lands and the opportunities for outdoor recreation play in our country’s recovery. Together, we can help make a meaningful contribution to pandemic recovery efforts.



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