Thanks to a new financial link between recreation and tourism, a bill to provide ongoing funding for Wyoming’s growing outdoor recreation industry is nearing passage in the Wyoming House of Representatives.
As the 67th session of the Wyoming Legislature progresses, bills begin to make their way out of committee and onto the floors of the Wyoming House of Representatives and Senate. After much deliberation and collaboration, a bill has just found its footing and could be the next big step in improving a growing portion of the state’s economy.
House Bill 74 was called the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund Act. If passed, the law would create a trust fund for the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation to ensure ongoing funding for various outdoor recreation projects.
A major reason House Bill 74 looks passable is that it’s a viable source of income for the establishment of the Outdoor Recreation Trust – the Wyoming Office of Tourism.
Sandy Newsome — House District 24 representative and chair of the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee — says the trust fund’s funding has been an ongoing acceleration for the law. Several possible options were considered – and discarded.
“It’s gone through many iterations of funding,” Newsome explains. “One of them was scratch cards for the lottery and that didn’t go anywhere. Most recently, five percent of sales tax was cut out for a few years. (But) when we talked about it, we thought, ‘This is mainly a tourism project.’
The Wyoming Office of Tourism is already allowed to invest money from its reserve fund in larger projects. The reallocation of funds for the development of the state’s outdoor recreation industry falls into this area.
A $6 million grant from the Wyoming Office of Tourism would set up the reserve fund, but both the tourism office and the state parks must agree for this to happen.
If allotted, $6 million from the Office of Tourism would be an initial investment – a kick start. The ultimate goal is to provide at least $50 million to the Office of Outdoor Recreation.
Newsome firmly believes this law is critical to Wyoming’s future.
“Outdoor recreation is so important to our part of the world and across the state. So we want to have an ongoing source of funding that they can budget for building trails and activities to enhance outdoor recreation.”
On Wednesday, January 18, the bill made it out of the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee. It is now in the hands of the Appropriations Committee, which largely approves every allocation of government funds.
Regardless, Newsome is confident that House Bill 74 has the legs it takes to scale the bureaucratic mountain and get past both houses.
“With the change in funding source, I think it has a good chance,” Newsome says.