As part of the president’s America the Beautiful initiative, the Biden-Harris administration today launched an interagency initiative called the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR) that will work to create safer, more affordable, and more equitable opportunities for Americans to be outdoors .
FICOR — which includes leaders from the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Defense — will focus on improving access to nature, expanding outdoor recreation opportunities, and providing the public with enhanced and more affordable experiences on America’s public lands and in to provide public waters.
Improving access to outdoor recreation is one of the six focus areas outlined in President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative. FICOR will help coordinate strategies, facilitate partnerships and improve implementation in the following areas:
- Investing in resilient recreation infrastructure such as electric vehicle charging stations, hiking trails, campgrounds, visitor centers, docks and boat access;
- Promoting educational and career opportunities in conservation, outdoor recreation, habitat restoration and resource management, and providing comprehensive visitor information to the hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, birding, climbing and boating communities;
- Working with state, tribal, territorial and local governments, including those in communities near federal lands and waters; and
- Improving equal access to state lands and waters and creating a welcoming visitor experience in partnership with private, public, tribal and nonprofit organizations.
The launch of FICOR refreshes and revitalizes a body originally formed in 2011 but suspended by the previous government. Prior to the suspension, FICOR successfully launched entertainment.gov, helped the Bureau of Economic Analysis track outdoor recreation as an economic sector, and worked to launch the Every Kid Outdoors Pass.
As outdoor recreation as an economic sector continues to grow rapidly, including contributing 1.8 percent to GDP and generating $374.3 billion in economic output, and America’s parks and public lands see record-high visitor numbers, undertakes the Biden-Harris administration has taken unprecedented steps to expand equitable access to nature and to protect natural, cultural and historical resources.
In addition to introducing the FICOR, the administration has:
- Launched historic investments through the bipartisan Infrastructure Act in state land and water restoration, including by improving the availability of, and equitable access to, outdoor recreation facilities.
- Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced $2.96 billion in funding opportunities from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) bipartisan infrastructure bill to address the climate crisis and strengthen coastal resilience and infrastructure. Over the next five years, NOAA’s targeted investments in habitat restoration, coastal resilience, and climate data and services will fuel ongoing federal efforts to build climate resilience. Projects focused on building “Climate Ready Coasts” will invest in natural infrastructure projects that promote outdoor recreation along our coasts by restoring coastal habitats, removing marine debris, storing carbon and creating jobs.
- Founded the America the Beautiful Challenge, a $1 billion public-private competitive funding program that funds locally led, volunteer conservation and restoration activities, including outdoor recreation development and workforce development. The first round of funding – a total of 85 million US dollars – will be released in November 2022.
- The Department of the Interior, through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program, announced it will provide more than $61 million in grants to communities in 26 cities to create new parks and trails or make major renovations to existing parks. Launched in 2014 and supported by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the program enables urban communities to create new outdoor recreation spaces, revitalize existing parks and create connections between people and nature in economically underserved communities.
- As the largest federal provider of outdoor water recreation in America, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is investing $120 million from the bipartisan Infrastructure Act and Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022 to improve recreational facilities across the country . These investments will promote equal access to outdoor recreation and support local communities. USACE recreation areas recorded 268 million visits last fiscal year, resulting in spending that supports approximately 217,000 jobs and generates nearly $14.5 billion for the local economy.
- Expanded hunting and sport fishing opportunities on land and in the waters of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
- The U.S. Department of the Interior expanded hunting and fishing access to 2.1 million acres of land and water in the National Wildlife Refuge System in 2021, the largest expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities in recent history. The Department continues to explore ways to provide additional access to areas of the refuge system. According to the service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion to economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016. More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the US population ages 16 and older — engage in wildlife-related activities, including hunting and fishing.
- Focused state land and water acquisitions and improvements under the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) of 2020, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
- The US Department of Agriculture announced more than $503 million in funding for National Forests and Grasslands. Funds go to projects that address delayed maintenance and improve campgrounds, hiking trails and facilities in national forests. Funds will also be used to purchase land to expand recreational opportunities for visitors and strengthen resource conservation partnerships with government agencies and private organizations.
- The Department of the Interior announced $279 million to support state lands and waters and extend access to outdoor recreation through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to all 50 states, US territories and the District of Columbia for state-designated Recreation and resources to extend outdoor protection projects.
- Expanded outdoor recreation opportunities by protecting areas for future generations.
- Secretary Deb Haaland announced the establishment of the Lost Trail Conservation Area in northwest Montana as the 568th and newest entity of the National Wildlife Refuge System managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This expansion — the first new unit in the Refuge System for the Biden-Harris administration — is the culmination of a 20-year, locally-led effort to preserve key big game corridors and recreational areas in the region. The service worked with the Trust for Public Land and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) to purchase the 38,052-acre conservation easement from its continuing owner, Southern Pine Plantations.
- The Bureau of Land Management, the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, and the five tribes of the Bears Ears Commission formalized their partnership for joint management of Bears Ears National Monument. The Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Uintah and Ouray Reservation Ute Indian Tribe, and Zuni Pueblo will be joint managers of the national monument and receive resources from federal agencies to participate and to take the lead administering their ancestral lands.
- The USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are considering a 20-year withdrawal of 225,000 acres of land from the US forest system in Minnesota to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness – the country’s most-visited wilderness area. The Rainy River watershed flows north toward the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park, landscapes known for quality fishing, wildlife viewing and recreational opportunities due to the large number of interconnected lakes and pristine water quality. The proposed mineral withdrawal aims to prevent further negative environmental impacts from future mining operations. It also assesses the impact of future mining on important social, cultural and economic values.
- On World Oceans Day, NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad announced NOAA’s initiation of the designation process for a new National Marine Protected Area to preserve the Hudson Canyon in the Atlantic Ocean. Designating a protected area would help preserve the region’s rich marine life and habitats and encourage scientific research, marine education and recreational opportunities such as whale watching, recreational fishing and boating.
- Creating staff development opportunities with the establishment of an Indian youth service corps program.
- The Biden-Harris administration announced the launch of the Indian Youth Service Corps program, which will provide meaningful education, employment and training opportunities for Indigenous youth through conservation projects on federal and Indian lands, and put young people on the path to good-paying jobs and at the same time contribute to overcoming the climate crisis.