Summer is here and Americans are moving outside—boating, camping, ATVing, hiking, biking, rock climbing, fishing, RV touring, paddling and more on our public spaces. Throughout June, the outdoor recreation industry celebrates Great Outdoors Month® by reminding everyone of the importance of outdoor recreation at the national, state and local levels. It’s a huge economic hit — generating $689 billion and creating over 4.3 million jobs — while bringing health benefits to communities and individuals who get outside, even for a stroll in a local park.
The endless benefits of outdoor recreation in our country come with their own set of challenges. More Americans than ever are getting outside, which is great for personal and social health, but more people on our public lands and waterways means we’re better maintaining our outdoor infrastructure while protecting our fish and wildlife from the effects of need overcrowding. At the same time, many Americans do not have adequate access to recreational opportunities, preventing them from reaping the benefits. Congress, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and state and local governments must work together to ensure that all Americans, regardless of their zip code, have access to public lands and waters.
Fortunately, there are bipartisan solutions to these challenges that don’t cost the taxpayer a penny. The outdoor recreation industry has worked with members of Congress, outdoor companies and local and national leaders to unveil an outdoor recreation package that will enhance everyone’s outdoor experience and equip the industry for a sustainable future.
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022, a unique comprehensive recreation package. Passed by committee in May, the bill combines several bipartisan and bicameral bills that the outdoor recreation industry has long supported – including the SOAR (Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation) Act, the Outdoor Recreation Act, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act and other pragmatic outdoor recreation laws.
These bills streamline permitting processes for outdoor excursions, support rural communities, create partnerships to update infrastructure and keep recreational areas open, extend the outdoor recreation season, improve visitation dates on public lands, update outdated reservation and permitting systems, and more Tools ready for public land managers to plan sustainable and responsible future recovery for all.
This bundle is packed with critical updates to our outdoor recreation infrastructure and systems that ensure positive and safe outdoor experiences while positioning the industry, which has endured COVID-19 and climate-related closures, and its economic benefits for a prosperous future . These bills also make recreation more accessible to all, whether you live next to a national park or in an urban center.
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This is an easy victory for both Democrats and Republicans in an election year that’s been somewhat difficult to get by. These sensible bills will bolster the outdoor recreation economy, support communities large and small, and ensure all Americans can continue to enjoy the great outdoors.
We call on the House of Representatives, particularly Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and senior member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), to join the Senate in taking up these bipartisan bills in the House Natural Resources Committee and a recovery package to create outdoors. This will improve outdoor recreation for every American and further fuel the growing and dependable outdoor recreation economy.
Jessica Turner is executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). ORR is the nation’s premier coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations representing the $689 billion outdoor recreation economy.