Outdoor Recreation Policy
“We are passionate stewards of the lands in which we play and a cornerstone of the coalition responsible for creating a unified, abundant and sustainable outdoor recreation infrastructure for future generations. We promote outdoor activities that are widely available. We work to ensure people of all ages, means, ethnicities and cultures prefer outdoor versus indoor activities and are more active and healthier as a result.”
Outdoor recreation — such as hiking, biking, camping, hunting, fishing, paddling, snowsports, wildlife watching — is an American pastime. America’s national recreation infrastructure — including public lands and waters provided by federal, state and local governments — provides the venues for the vast majority of these activities. Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic driver providing sustainable, domestic jobs in urban and rural communities across America. The outdoor industry drives nearly $646 billion in retail sales and services, and nearly $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.
2013 marks a significant year in the evolution of OIA and the government affairs program. With the recent opening of a permanent office in Washington, D.C., OIA has raised the profile of the outdoor industry among decision makers like never before. The appointment of REI’s chief executive, Sally Jewell, as Secretary of the Interior underscores the industry’s prominence in President Obama’s vision for the protection and preservation of America’s natural resources, cultural and tribal communities, and our public lands legacy. The OIA government affairs team looks forward to working with Ms. Jewell to ensure that America’s national outdoor recreation system remains a crucial component of America’s economic recovery.
OIA 2013 Recreation Strategic Priorities and Initiatives
National Outdoor Recreation System (NORS)
Outdoor recreation can continue to grow jobs and drive the economy if we manage and invest in America’s parks, waters and trails as a national outdoor recreation system designed to sustain economic dividends for America. America’s legacy of national, state and local parks, national forests, rivers, wetlands, and trails form what may be described as a national outdoor recreation system. This interlocking system of remote wilderness and local parks, wild rivers and scenic waterways, hiking trails and bicycle paths, coastlines and forest tracts comprise the essential places where citizens seek an experience of nature, play and rediscover their connection to the natural world.
Agency Budget to Maintain NORS
The federal budget deficit problem continues to overshadow all policy-making in Washington, D.C., and will for the foreseeable future. The Budget Control Act of 2011 signed into law in August 2011 avoided default on the nation’s debt while putting austere spending caps on discretionary spending for the next 10 years. The failure of Congress to find common ground on budget, taxation and spending issues means deeper cuts to discretionary and defense spending accounts. This threatens funding for essential functions that provide recreational opportunity to all Americans, namely:
- Facilities and Maintenance: namely parks, forests, refuges and similar locations with campgrounds, boat ramps, road access, parking, trail heads and similar infrastructure that provide users a place to recreate
- Programs and Management: education, information, guide, map and other resources that aid or support a user’s experience at a park, refuge, forest, reservoir, river or other recreational location, or maintain the health and vitality of wildlife species.
Land and Water Conservation Fund
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is one of our country’s most important tools for protecting our national parks, forests, BLM and other federal lands and for creating and enhancing state and local parks, working forests and wildlife areas. This bipartisan program began in 1965 when Congress agreed that a small portion of federal leasing revenues from energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf be reinvested in American communities. Authorized to receive $900 million annually, it has been chronically underfunded for decades. LWCF has received full funding only once and in recent years has declined to roughly one-third of its authorized funding.
The LWCF state assistance grants program provides crucial support to create and enhance state and local parks and to develop close-to-home recreation facilities across the country. Given the need for long-term planning to ensure the best return on the public’s investment, certainty and consistency are critical— full and dedicated funding is needed for LWCF to fulfill its promise to protect local, state, and federal outdoor recreation and natural areas in America.
Urban Parks & Community Open Spaces
Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, many of which are struggling with declining economies, poor public health, and higher rates of crime and at-risk youth. Access to parks, green space, and recreation opportunities has proven to be a vital part of the solution of many of these issues. Yet, most urban areas suffer from deteriorating community infrastructure, a lack of green space, neglected parks, unsafe playgrounds, and inadequate recreation resources.
The Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) program was established in November 1978 by Public Law 95-625, authorizing $725 million to provide matching grants and technical assistance to economically distressed urban communities. The purpose of the program is to provide direct Federal assistance to urban localities for rehabilitation of critically needed recreation facilities. The law also encourages systematic local planning and commitment to continuing operation and maintenance of recreation programs, sites, and facilities. Only cities and urban counties meeting established criteria are eligible for assistance. The UPARR program has not been funded since 2002.
Congress needs to fully fund UPARR or similar program at $725 million.