Summer is here and Americans are headed outside — boating, camping, ATVing, hiking, biking, climbing, fishing, RVing, paddling, and more on our public lands. Throughout June, the outdoor recreation industry is celebrating Great Outdoors Month® by reminding everyone just how important outdoor recreation is at the national, state, and local levels. It packs a big economic punch — generating $689 billion and creating over 4.3 million jobs — while bringing health benefits to communities and individuals who get outside, even for a walk in a local park.
The endless benefits outdoor recreation heaps on our nation come with their own challenges. More Americans than ever are getting outside, which is excellent for personal and societal health, but more people on our public lands and waters means we must do a better job at maintaining our outdoor infrastructure, while also protecting our fish and wildlife from the impacts of overcrowding. At the same time, many Americans do not have adequate access to recreation opportunities, preventing them from enjoying its benefits. Congress, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and state and local governments must work together to ensure all Americans have access to public lands and waters regardless of their zip code.
Fortunately, these challenges have bipartisan solutions that won’t cost taxpayers a dime. The outdoor recreation industry worked with members of Congress, outdoor businesses, and local and national leaders to introduce an outdoor recreation package that will improve everyone’s outdoor experience and set the industry up for a sustainable future.
Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee have introduced the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive recreation package. The bill passed out of the committee in May and combines several bipartisan and bicameral bills the outdoor recreation industry has long supported — including the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, the Outdoor Recreation Act, Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, and other pragmatic pieces of outdoor recreation legislation.
These bills streamline the permitting processes for outdoor excursions, support rural communities, create partnerships to update infrastructure and keep recreation areas open, extend outdoor recreation seasons, improve visitation data on public lands, make updates to obsolete reservation and permitting systems, and provide more tools for public land managers to plan for sustainable and responsible recreation for the future for everyone.
This package is full of vital updates to our outdoor recreation infrastructure and systems that will ensure positive and safe outdoor experiences while setting the industry, which has endured COVID-19 and climate-related closures, and its economic benefits up for a successful future. These bills also make recreation more accessible for everyone whether you live next to a national park or in an urban center.
This is an easy win for Democrats and Republicans in an election year when passing anything is difficult. These commonsense bills will bolster the outdoor recreation economy, support communities large and small, and ensure all Americans can continue to enjoy the great outdoors.
We urge the House, particularly Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), to match the Senate and take up these bipartisan bills in the House Natural Resources Committee and create an outdoor recreation package. Doing so will improve outdoor recreation for every American and further bolster the growing and dependable outdoor recreation economy.
Jessica Turner is executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). ORR is the nation’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations representing the $689 billion outdoor recreation economy.