ORR Celebrates as Congress Gets Another Chance to Help Americans Access Outdoor Recreation
America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) was reintroduced today in the 118th Congress with strong bipartisan support, and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and its members across the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy urge swift approval of this bill so that many more Americans can enjoy outdoor spaces and their associated benefits to health and wellness. This groundbreaking legislation not only boosts local and national economies, it also gives more Americans — especially those in underserved areas — greater access to green spaces and public lands and waters while not costing taxpayers a dime to implement.
“This is a commonsense, no-cost bill that will help equalize and improve access to green spaces and wild outdoor places in every state in the country,” said Chris Perkins, Senior Director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “We are seeing unprecedented interest in outdoor recreation, but many of the policies supporting outdoor recreation are outdated. This package will make it easier for Americans to access the outdoors and provide agencies with new tools to address long-standing outdoor recreation needs. We need solutions that enhance outdoor recreation opportunities while protecting America’s public lands and waters, and AORA is an historic step to update these policies.”
Outdoor recreation is an $862 billion industry, providing 4.5 million American jobs and boosting economies in communities large and small. And studies have shown that enjoying time outside helps benefit a person’s mental and physical health.
“Thanks to the work of Senator Manchin (D-WV), Senator Barasso (R-WY), and the many other champions of the outdoor industry in Congress, Americans will have the opportunity to reap these benefits for generations to come,” Perkins continued. “ORR encourages swift, bipartisan action to send this bill to the president’s desk.”
America’s Outdoor Recreation Act would:
- enable permit streamlining to ease burdens on outfitters and guides and improve access to outdoor experiences;
- improve access to recreation on public lands and waters;
- ensure access to green spaces in underserved communities;
- update outdoor recreation infrastructure;
- develop, improve, and complete long range trails; and
- invest in rural economic development.
America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, Explained
Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Member Quotes:
“Outdated regulations in the outfitter-guide permitting system have made it time consuming, unpredictable, and unnecessarily difficult for guide services and outdoor organizations to provide guided climbing and skiing experiences on public lands,” said Alex Kosseff, Executive Director of the American Mountain Guides Association. “The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act includes provisions that will remove old roadblocks in the permitting system and enable more Americans to experience the joy of rock climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing in forests and parks across the country. The American Mountain Guides Association applauds Senators Manchin and Barrasso for introducing this landmark legislation.”
“By giving outfitters and public land agencies new tools and resources to improve access and the permitting process, we can all focus on what’s really important: building people’s connections with our greatest resource, the shared American landscape. America’s Outdoor Recreation Act bolsters the outdoor recreation economy and opens the doors for outfitters new and old to provide ample and affordable guided opportunities to folks from all walks of life,” said Aaron Bannon, Executive Director, America Outdoors Association.
“American Prairie is glad to see the introduction of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. Outdoor recreation generates over 4% of Montana’s GDP, second in the nation only to Hawaii. We support the bill’s provisions to fund rural economic development in gateway communities and enhance public access to public land.” – Mike Quist Kautz, Director of Public Access at American Prairie
“The sportfishing industry thanks Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso for reintroducing this incredibly important legislation for America’s outdoor recreation community,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is a comprehensive set of provisions to ensure our public lands are well managed and conserved to benefit the outdoor recreation economy and all those who love the outdoors.”
“The Archery Trade Association is thankful for the many champions in Congress serving to reintroduce and support this important legislation” said Dan Forster, Vice President & Chief Conservation Officer of the Archery Trade Association. “The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will help ensure that our federal public lands are accessible, well managed, and continue to provide a critically important foundation for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.”
“Outdoor recreation is vitally important to boosting the health of all people, and access to public lands and trails is crucial for the millions of ATV, dirt bike, and side-by-side riders and drivers, said Erik Pritchard, President and CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Council, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. “The $50 billion powersports industry applauds Congress for reintroducing America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, which would help create additional opportunities for motorized access to federal recreational lands, improve recreation infrastructure, support local communities, and bolster the nation’s economy. We thank Senators Manchin and Barrasso for championing this legislation and urge swift bipartisan action to pass this act.”
“The National Forest Recreation Association extends its sincere appreciation to Chairman Manchin, Ranking Member Barasso and the other senators who have been champions of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act,” said Marily Reese, Executive Director of the National Forest Recreation Association. “The AORA recognizes the importance of having and maintaining the infrastructure and facilities needed for quality outdoor recreation experiences to both the health and well-being of the recreating public as well as the rural economies which rely on a robust outdoor recreation economy. NFRA is hopeful Congress can pass the AORA for the benefit of the American public.”
“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will bolster outdoor recreation access and opportunities for the millions of Americans who continue to discover the benefits of the great outdoors and time spent on our nation’s lands and waters,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President and CEO of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “We thank Senators Manchin and Barrasso for their bipartisan leadership in re-introducing this critical bill, and are encouraged by the work underway in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a meaningful recreation package early in the new Congress. The recreational boating and fishing industry urges Congress to swiftly pass this bill in the weeks to come.”
“Recreation in our great natural spaces is invaluable to our physical and mental health and spiritual well-being,” National Wild Turkey Federation Co-CEO Jason Burckhalter said. “Like our members and me, millions venture into national forests, grasslands and public waterways for ethically harvested, organic protein through hunting and fishing. The American Outdoor Recreation Act opens opportunities and provides infrastructure to support these and other recreational users and is vital to ensuring access to people of all walks of life who want to enjoy what nature has to offer.”
“After building significant support for the legislation in the last Congress with lawmakers, outdoor industry leaders, and other stakeholders, we are thrilled to see Senators Manchin and Barrasso reintroduce this historic comprehensive outdoor recreation bill. This package would provide meaningful support for outdoor recreation opportunities across the country at a time when a record number of Americans are getting outdoors and benefitting from the mental and physical health benefits these spaces provide,” said Kent Ebersole, interim executive director of Outdoor Industry Association. “Federal outdoor recreation legislation will have a real impact on the ability of all Americans to spend time outside, while bolstering the outdoor recreation economy and the jobs it provides to communities across the country. We applaud these forward-thinking lawmakers for their leadership and their commitment to improving access to America’s lands and waters.”
“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will make biking and mountain biking experiences on our public lands more accessible, sustainable, and enjoyable for all. Provisions like SOAR and BOLT will help meet the growing demand for bicycling as a low-cost, zero-emission, tourism-driving activity,” said PeopleForBikes President and CEO Jenn Dice. “This package proves that bike policy brings both sides of the aisle together to grow infrastructure and access. We look forward to working with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on advancing this first-of-its-kind bipartisan investment in the future of recreation.”
“At REI, we believe that time outside–recreating with family and friends, or on your own–is fundamental to a life well lived. We applaud Chairman Manchin, Ranking Member Barrasso, and the senators who have been diligently working on these policies for years for coming together to support making the outdoors more accessible for everyone. The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will both strengthen our public lands and increase opportunities for all people to enjoy time in nature. Through increased resources for expansive outdoor recreation pursuits, including long-trails and urban parks in historically disinvested communities, and permit streamlining, this bill is increasing equitable access to the outdoors in a bipartisan way,” said Taldi Harrison, Head of Government Affairs, REI Co-op
“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is bipartisan legislation that will help ensure that Americans continue to enjoy the benefits of recreating outdoors for generations to come,” said RVDA President Phil Ingrassia. “The act will improve and modernize recreation infrastructure on public lands to support everyone who enjoys the great outdoors, including the growing number of RV travelers.”
“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is crucial to the RV industry and the wider outdoor recreation industry. It remains a significant factor in making sustainable improvements to our nation’s campgrounds and improving the experiences of current and future RVers,” said Craig Kirby, President & CEO of the RV Industry Association. “In addition, the Act provides greater access to the health benefits offered by the great outdoors and offers an economic boost to both the local and national economies. We would also like to thank Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso for their steadfast leadership. Our government affairs team will be continuing to advocate in support of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, and we call on Congress for its swift passage.”
“Outdoor recreation is enormously important to Americans, and Outdoor Alliance is grateful for Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso’s reintroduction of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, which will benefit the millions of Americans who participate in outdoor recreation every year. Outdoor recreation on our public lands and waters is an important part of millions of people’s lives, and there is more we can do to protect and facilitate these experiences. Effectively managing our public lands and waters requires both conservation and sound policy guidance. America’s Outdoor Recreation Act provides improved management for climbing and mountain biking; enhances how agencies manage outdoor recreation; and invests in equity through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership and by making facilitated access experiences available to more Americans.” – Louis Geltman, Policy Director, Outdoor Alliance
“IMBA is grateful for Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso’s work to introduce America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, which offers a tremendous opportunity to expand access for mountain biking, for trails, and for recreation in communities across the country. IMBA and our partners will continue working to pass America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, and continue engaging mountain bike advocates to join us.” – David Wiens, Executive Director, International Mountain Bicycling Association
“More than half of America’s climbing areas are on federal land, and we need common-sense and consistent federal policy that supports sustainable recreation and conserves public lands. Access Fund thanks Senators Barrasso and Manchin for spearheading the bipartisan America’s Outdoor Recreation Act. We look forward to continuing our work on the bill that supports climbers, climbing history, gateway communities, and rural economies across the country” – Chris Winter, Executive Director, Access Fund
“As outdoor recreation grows in popularity, we need more tools to get people outside safely and responsibly. The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will streamline the federal recreational permitting process to enable more people to experience the outdoors through organized group experiences facilitated by outdoor leaders and educators. The Mountaineers is grateful to Senator Manchin and Senator Barrasso for their leadership to help connect more people with their public lands and waters.” – Tom Vogl, CEO, The Mountaineers
“Many of the highest quality river recreation opportunities exist on our shared public lands and we know local communities see huge economic, as well as quality of life benefits related to these important watersheds. We’re excited to see America’s Outdoor Recreation Act reintroduced in Congress because it will create a standardized system for measuring and sharing these benefits across all public lands and will work to improve sustainable, high-quality river running experiences through expanded protections, better infrastructure, and a focus on equitable access.”
AMERICAN CANOE ASSOCIATION
“Access to urban waterways can be challenging. Creating park space in existing urban areas has the potential to provide waterways access for groups of people that might not have any existing options. Increasing access to paddling opportunities is a great thing for paddlers across the country. Establishing a dedicated source of funding for the Outdoor Legacy Partnership Program will help accomplish this goal by expanding park and open space infrastructure in places that are closest to 80% of the American population.”
“SEMA thanks Senators Manchin and Barrasso for reintroducing the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act This bipartisan bill would streamline the process and expenses associated with obtaining special recreation permits, require federal land management agencies to increase opportunities for motorized and non-motorized access on public lands, and direct the BLM and Forest Service to make maps available to the public depicting where vehicles are allowed to recreate,” said Karen Bailey-Chapman, Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs, Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
“America’s Outdoor Recreation Act will make our public lands more accessible to all Americans by modernizing agency rules and processes and enhancing recreation infrastructure across the country. This bipartisan bill reflects the importance of these shared spaces to outdoor recreation,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Hunters and anglers thank leadership and members of both parties in the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee for moving this legislation forward.
Outdoor Recreation Roundtable calls on Congress to Act Boldly and Pass the Outdoors for All Act
Following introduction of the Outdoors for All Act in the United States Senate and House, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) released the following statement of support:
“More Americans than ever are getting outside to reap the benefits that come from spending time on our nation’s public lands and waters. The Outdoors for All Act will help to ensure that all Americans have equitable access to the outdoors – especially in disadvantaged communities that have traditionally lacked access to green spaces – and ensure the $862 billion outdoor recreation industry can continue its important role in getting more people outside. ORR applauds Senators Padilla (D-CA) and Collins (R-ME) in the U.S. Senate and Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Congressman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) in the U.S. House of Representatives for their work introducing this important legislation. We encourage quick action and bipartisan support not only on this bill, but on the full suite of bills included in America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, a historic package which would help ensure that Americans benefit from time spent recreating outdoors for generations to come,” said Chris Perkins, Senior Director at ORR.
Confluence of States Release Trailblazing Guidebook on Developing Offices of Outdoor Recreation
Today, the Confluence of States released the first-ever Guidebook on Developing Offices of Outdoor Recreation. This guidebook provides best practices and strategies sourced from existing state directors to ensure that new staff members who are in leadership of an office of outdoor recreation have an overview of proven ideas to help their office succeed. The guidebook will also support directors of current state offices of outdoor recreation, of which there are now 18 across the United States.
Over the past few years, there has been an unprecedented interest in outdoor recreation. U.S. federal data show that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for $862 billion in gross economic output, 1.9 percent of gross domestic product, and 4.5 million jobs in 2021. From 2020 to 2021, the outdoor recreation economy grew nearly 19%, over three times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole. States are seizing the moment by creating offices of outdoor recreation to cultivate economic development opportunities, improve public health benefits, connect people to the outdoors, and invest in their residents.
As the guidebook notes, Offices of Outdoor Recreation are created through legislation, budget line item, executive order, or gubernatorial action. They are often developed with the support of stakeholders, business leaders, government, and non-profit partnerships. While every state office of outdoor recreation follows a unique path depending on its role in state government and founding mandate, this guidebook will help new leaders map out their first-year goals and priorities.
The guidebook is presented in the following sections:
- Operationalizing the Office – understanding the context of one’s office and developing goals.
- Building Support – developing relationships with stakeholders and creating a plan for meaningful engagement.
- Priority Initiatives – providing an overview of common priorities including conservation and natural resources, economic development, grant management, and tourism.
Additional resources include a glossary of common language, a 1-year template, and appendix of helpful tools and links. Members of the Confluence of States are highlighted throughout the guidebook to provide words of advice and encouragement as new leaders start organizing their offices for the first time.
“Offices of Outdoor Recreation can be transformative leadership positions in a state, providing the vision and capacity to connect great work already happening with more influential leaders, eager communities and outdoor businesses,” said Brad Garmon, 2023 Chair of the Confluence of States and Executive Director of the Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “This guidebook is the collected wisdom of Confluence of States leaders who have navigated their state’s unique outdoor recreation landscape, politics, and timing to create meaningful, lasting change in their states, and we’re excited to support others who are following in our footsteps –and hopefully helping us break trail on some new ideas as well.”
“The past few years have made it clear: states that invest in outdoor recreation enjoy new jobs and businesses, improved public health, more resilient economies, and connected communities,” said Chris Perkins, Senior Director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations and organizations serving more than 110,000 businesses. “While every state office of outdoor recreation will take a unique approach to the work, this guidebook ensures that both new and existing offices have access to proven strategies to help their states’ outdoor recreation economies thrive. ORR and our member organizations across the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy are thrilled to see the Guidebook released to the public and look forward to its positive impact on state offices of outdoor recreation across the country”
“The creation of state-based outdoor recreation offices is a key priority in OIA’s state-level policy platform, and the health and vitality of the outdoor industry and economy is amplified by the work being done across state offices on a day-to-day basis,” said Rebecca Gillis, State & Local Government Affairs Manager of the Outdoor Industry Association, the premier trade association for outdoor businesses. “The newly-released Guidebook to Developing Offices of Outdoor Recreation is a powerful tool that will enable advocates and outdoor stakeholders to continue growing momentum in creating and strengthening state-based outdoor recreation offices throughout the U.S.”
“The VF Foundation is proud to support the Confluence of States and their Guidebook to Developing Offices of Outdoor Recreation,” said Gloria Schoch, Executive Director of The VF Foundation and Senior Director of Global Impact at VF Corporation. “We believe in the power of nature, the importance of protecting it and making it more accessible to all to foster sustainable and active lifestyles. We share these priorities with the Confluence of States and see their offices as influential drivers in advancing this work. We’re looking forward to seeing more states develop offices of outdoor recreation across the country. It’s an investment for communities guided by dedicated leaders who play a vital role in harnessing the collective might of the greater outdoor industry.”
The Confluence of States will host a webinar to debut the new guidebook on March 9th, 2023, at 2 PM EST. The webinar, titled State Offices of Outdoor Recreation: Introducing the Guidebook on Best Practices and a Conversation for Getting Started, will feature Maribel Castañeda, author of the guidebook and Fellow for the Confluence of States, who will present the new playbook and moderate a panel of current state directors of outdoor recreation to discuss best practices for success in operating a new office. Register here.
The Confluence of States is a bipartisan coalition developing a national platform to grow the outdoor recreation industry, protect our nation’s wild places and transform conservation into a driver for economic prosperity.
ORR Highlights 2022 Recreation Industry Wins in 3rd Annual Report
2022 was an incredible year for the record-breaking $862 billion outdoor recreation industry. Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) facilitated the cross-sector collaboration that allowed for huge industry wins while continuing to boost and provide support for local economies and working to ensure that all Americans can access the great outdoors. ORR’s 2022 Annual Report outlines how the organization and its members provided breakthrough innovation, secured increased funding and helped make critical infrastructure reform at a time when more and more Americans are seeking out the myriad benefits that come from spending time outside.
Highlights of the year include:
- Supporting the Biden Administration’s revival of the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation (FICOR) so that federal land and water management agencies can work together to address important recreation issues around funding, overcrowding, climate resiliency, and more;
- Partnering with Congressional leaders to champion a package of outdoor recreation legislation that received bipartisan and unanimous support in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee;
- Securing millions of dollars in funding for rural communities through grants from the Economic Development Administration;
- Coordinating the release of new outdoor recreation economic data from the Department of Commerce showing the outdoor recreation sector had its best year ever in 2021;
- Introducing new resources for organizations working for greater inclusivity in the outdoors like the Together Outdoors Resource Hub;
- Hosting a first-of-its kind industry summit on electrification and next gen technology in outdoor recreation; as well as
- Launching Workforce Career modules to support employers and employees, welcoming new members, and state offices from all across the country to the coalition, and much more.
As for 2023 and beyond, “The ORR team is enthusiastic about building out the next important growth phase of the organization with emphasis on industry thought leadership and convenings, ensuring recognition of the recreation economy, and policy developments at all levels that support a healthy business environment and recreation economy for the benefit of all Americans. This next year will be critically important for both our organization and the recreation economy at large and we are excited to dig into another year of dedication to our amazing members and the lands and waters that serve as the backbone of our strong sector,” – Jessica Turner, ORR President.
ORR Partners with the Richard King Mellon Foundation to Move Rural Recreation Economies Forward
Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) is teaming up with the Richard King Mellon Foundation for its next phase in helping rural communities build and make their local economies more resilient through outdoor recreation. The partnership ensures that ORR can continue its charge to provide support, information and resources to rural communities seeking to create economic opportunities through their outdoor recreation amenities. The Richard King Mellon Foundation, demonstrating its commitment to recreation, conservation, and innovative partnerships, is providing $100,000 to the effort to support ORR’s work and provide grants for rural communities.
The new partnership will also include updating and expanding the widely popular Rural Economic Development Toolkit, a resource developed in partnership with the Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy and The VF Foundation. Over the next year, ORR will add to the toolkit new success stories, grant opportunities, best practices, testimonials, stakeholder feedback, community self-assessment tools, examples of public-private partnerships, and an updated list of federal and state grants and technical assistance related to outdoor recreation economy development.
In addition, this support will enable ORR to launch the second round of its successful grant program in summer 2023 to supply small matching grants and in-kind technical assistance to rural communities with compelling recreation economy plans. For communities with big plans and limited bandwidth, grants like these can help unlock federal, state, and local match dollars like the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) Program, a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Border Regional Commission, and Appalachian Regional Commission. This year’s cohort of 25 new RERC communities will be eligible to apply for ORR grants.
These efforts will be complemented by ORR’s association and business members from across the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy, who can provide in-kind resources on best practices and strategies to develop high-quality recreation infrastructure.
“This support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will pay dividends for rural communities across the United States who recognize outdoor recreation’s role in economic diversification and resilience, but may not know where to start, need further technical assistance, or require catalytic funding to get their plans off the ground,” said Chris Perkins, Senior Director at Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The past few years have illustrated outdoor recreation’s role in economic development, improved public health for all, connected communities, and so many other benefits. ORR is greatly appreciative of this new partnership and looks forward to sharing the results of this work over the coming months.”
“EPA is so pleased to hear about this new partnership that will support our rural community partners, helping them to implement the plans they developed through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program,” said Steph Bertaina, Senior Policy Analyst at Environmental Protection Agency who manages the RERC program. “So many rural communities are eager to leverage outdoor recreation to boost their economies and downtowns, and these grants will help our community partners do just that. Countless rural communities and small towns around the country are looking for more information and support in building sustainable, diverse outdoor recreation economies, and the updated Rural Economic Development Toolkit will provide much-needed resources for communities wanting to get started.”
“We’re thrilled to hear about the continued support of the Richard King Mellon Foundation for ORR’s work in rural economic development.” said Lee Davis, Executive Director of the Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy (CORE). “In Oregon and across the country, we’re seeing rural communities benefit from investing in outdoor recreation infrastructure and services. Here at CORE, we’ve enjoyed working with ORR to provide information and resources to rural community leaders so they can leverage the natural beauty of the outdoors around them to help restore and grow their economies, and strengthen their communities.”
Massachusetts establishes state Office of Outdoor Recreation, bolstering its already $9.5 billion outdoor recreation economy
Massachusetts became the 18th state to establish an Office of Outdoor Recreation – drawing praise from Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) and bolstering the ability of the nation’s $862 billion outdoor recreation economy to grow even more. Massachusetts’ Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito welcomed an enthusiastic audience full of recreation and conservation advocates to celebrate the new office, which will be housed in the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs. In establishing the new office, the Baker/Polito Administration is making a strong commitment to the Commonwealth’s economy, public health and wellness, equitable access to the outdoors, and increasing collaboration and investment in this vital industry.
Massachusetts joins Maryland and Arkansas as the most recent states to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation since 2020. Eighteen states across the country now have offices dedicated to growing the outdoor recreation economy, announced in 2021 to have been an $862 billion economy (1.9% of GDP) that creates 4.5 million American jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). In the same announcement, BEA noted that Massachusetts’ outdoor recreation economy generated $9.5 billion in GDP (1.5% of state GDP), and 93,422 jobs.
“The creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation is a huge step forward for Massachusetts, a state that offers a wide diversity of outstanding recreation opportunities,” said Jessica Turner, President at the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “Outdoor recreation in Massachusetts grew 24% in the past year, helping create jobs, supporting rural communities, and promoting conservation of the Commonwealth’s natural resources. We thank the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – including Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and Secretary Card – for their leadership in recognizing outdoor recreation’s importance and look forward to working with them to make sure residents and visitors alike benefit from access to outdoor recreation for generations to come.”
“The RV industry applauds the creation of an Office of Outdoor Recreation in Massachusetts, exemplifying the state’s commitment to prioritizing the growth of outdoor recreation and support the thriving RV industry,” said RV Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Jay Landers. “In addition to outdoor recreation as a whole, this office supports the more than 200 RV businesses who create nearly 6,000 jobs and pay $451 million in wages in Massachusetts.”
“Coming on the heels of the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ data release highlighting the power of the outdoor recreation economy, today’s announcement from Lieutenant Governor Polito is welcomed news for the robust outdoor recreation industry,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). “Driven by recreational boating and fishing, the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy is on a strong trajectory. The formation of a Massachusetts Office of Outdoor Recreation further strengthens our economic impact while enhancing the economic competitiveness of Massachusetts.”
“Recognizing the critical importance outdoor recreation plays to both the state and national economy, we are pleased to support the establishment of the Massachusetts Office of Outdoor Recreation,” said Randall Lyons, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association. The recreational boating industry in Massachusetts contributes over 4 billion dollars to the state economy and employs over 20,000 men and women within the state. For every $1 spent on transient dockage it equates to close to $4 to the local community where the visiting boater is docked. Boaters are helping to fuel the economy by spending money on shopping, restaurants, lodging, fuel and more.”
“The Confluence of States is delighted to welcome Massachusetts as the nation’s next state to establish an office of outdoor recreation,” said Colin Robertson, Chair of the Confluence of States and Administrator of the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation. “Massachusetts joins other northeastern states to develop an office including Confluence members Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, who are among the 17 members of the Confluence of States. We look forward to working with Massachusetts to strengthen the outdoor recreation industry across state lines through our four core principles: conservation and stewardship; education and workforce development; economic development; and public health. Congratulations to each organization and outdoor leader who ushered this inaugural office. We are celebrating this historic moment with you.”
Record-Breaking Numbers: Outdoor recreation a whopping $862B industry according to new government data
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has released economic data for 2021 exhibiting outdoor recreation’s powerful and positive economic impact on the U.S. economy. These new numbers show outdoor recreation generates $862 billion in economic output and 4.5 million jobs. This means the outdoor recreation economy contributes more to the U.S. economy than oil and gas extraction, mining, and agriculture. The report includes national and state level data.
This is the fifth consecutive year that BEA has released government data on this critical industry sector. Today’s release shows how the outdoor industry, which played a vital economic and social role throughout the pandemic, has since sustained remarkable growth, and continued to bolster local economies. The outdoor recreation economy came back stronger than ever after the COVID-19 pandemic and remains a steady source of strength nationally and a booming job creator locally.
Key highlights from the 2021 data on the outdoor recreation economy:
- $862 billion in economic output;
- 1.9% of GDP;
- 4.5 million jobs;
- Trips and travel coming back, record sales in many outdoor segments, manufacturing increasing, as well as the drive to continue to recreate for quality of life allowed our industry to bounce back from the effects of COVID-19 in 2020.
“The BEA data underscores how important it is to invest in public lands, waters and recreation infrastructure from coast to coast and for recreation activities of all types,” said Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “From the creation of jobs and increased profit for small businesses in local economies, to larger boons to our national economy, this sector is a consistent driver, even in times of economic uncertainty. The strength of the outdoor recreation economy reflects what many in the industry have long known to be true: there are infinite benefits that come from more people spending time outdoors, and they’ll only grow with continued investment.”
“We have seen record growth in camping and boating over the past couple years, with millions of people enjoying RVs and boats to connect with family and friends, to relax and recharge, and to experience nature,” said Michael Happe, President and CEO of Winnebago Industries. “The record economic impact in the BEA numbers demonstrates the collective power of our industry to help people discover and experience the tremendous benefits of the outdoor lifestyle. We continue to welcome an increasingly diverse group of new participants, so we look forward to maintaining this momentum by developing recreation infrastructure and increasing access for all.”
“The latest BEA numbers are a testament to the power of outdoor recreation, and we are thrilled to see our industry’s economic impact grow,” said Chris Metz, CEO of Vista Outdoor Inc., the parent company of 41 outdoor and sporting product brands. “This data shows that people continued to venture into the outdoors for health, wellness and adventure in record numbers last year as businesses across the industry worked to expand participation and bring more people into the outdoors. The goal now: Build on that momentum. We will stay focused on increasing access to public lands, building more recreation infrastructure and growing participation across all outdoor activities.”
“This data solidifies what we have seen over our sixty-year history – that there is intrinsic value in the outdoors,” said Toby O’Rourke, President and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, Inc. “Over 20 million new households started camping since 2020 with six in ten planning to continue. We are increasingly seeing camping and the outdoors vacation becoming a preferred form of travel. The economic impact of camping and the greater outdoor industry underscores how critical natural spaces are to our communities. And, even more importantly, the outdoors remain vital for overall health and well-being and in fostering connection to others.”
“The continued strength of the outdoor economy is no surprise to the marine industry, where we continue to see incredible growth with new and younger customers taking to our brands each year,” said Chris Drees, President of Mercury Marine, the world’s leading manufacturer of recreational marine propulsion engines. “We will continue to work closely with our partners in the outdoor recreational community to promote the benefits of being on the water.”
“Last year proved to be a year like no other for the outdoor recreation industry, and today’s Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account data release underscores the fact that boating and time spent on our nation’s waterways is a favorite American pastime,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and current Board Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). “Since 2020, the recreational boating and fishing industry and outdoor recreation economy at-large has led a national recovery, welcoming millions of families to experience the considerable health benefits of the great outdoors while being a vital economic contributor and job creator.”
“The outdoor recreation economy nearing $1 trillion in economic value is impressive yet unsurprising. With roughly 50 million anglers across the United States, recreational fishing is an important aspect of outdoor recreation, and we are proud to be part of an industry that is both growing in popularity and value,” said Glenn Hughes, President of the American Sportfishing Association. “The BEA data reflects how important it is for Americans to continue to have access to clean waters and abundant fisheries, and we are honored to play an important role in growing our nation’s economy. ASA looks forward to increasing participation rates alongside the rest of the outdoor recreation industry and getting more Americans outside or on the water.”
“The RV industry has seen a record number of younger and more diverse customers flock to RVs as a way to fulfil their desire to get outdoors, take part in all kinds of outdoor recreation, and live an active outdoor lifestyle. RVs provide a basecamp for every form of recreation included in these new economic numbers, from boating and fishing to hiking, biking, and climbing,” said Craig Kirby, President and CEO of the RV Industry Association. “What these new numbers show is that outdoor recreation is not just good for people’s physical and mental health, it is also a significant economic driver across the entire country.”
“To those of us in the powersports industry, these are not surprising numbers. We’ve seen outdoor recreation giving a real boost to America’s economy during the pandemic as more people throw a leg over a motorcycle or ATV, or get behind the wheel of a side-by-side to enjoy family time in the beautiful outdoors,” said Erik Pritchard, President and CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Council. “The BEA data confirms that communities large and small, from all corners of America, benefit from outdoor recreation. We’re proud to be part of the responsible recreators who are generating nearly a trillion dollars in economic value across the country.”
To see what the recreation community is saying, click here.
America’s outdoor recreation community, represented by ORR, continues to support the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) – the project compiling and releasing this data. Just like is the case for many other industries, the goal is to provide annual data on the economic importance of national and regional outdoor recreation economies that can be tracked for years to come. To learn more about ORR and outdoor recreation’s contributions to the economy, click here.
Confluence of States Leaders Gather in Nevada, Elect New Leadership from Michigan and Maine
Incline Village, Nevada – State-level outdoor recreation leaders representing the Confluence of States gathered at the Outdoor Media Summit alongside industry partners to elect organization leadership, discuss key issues affecting the $689 billion outdoor recreation economy, and strategize about the continued advancement of the outdoor economy through their engagement with the Outdoor Recreation Industry Confluence of States Accords.
Brad Garmon, Executive Director of the Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, was elected Chair of the Confluence of States Coalition for 2023. Carolann Ouellette, Director of the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation, was elected to serve as Vice-Chair.
“The outdoor recreation economy is a powerful, unifying force for better health, good jobs, and community-based investment all across the country,” said Brad Garmon, Executive Director of the Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. “I’m honored to work with leaders in the Confluence of States and with our outdoor industry partners over the next year to develop and refine the range of programs and tools that our states use to enable more outdoor businesses to prosper and empower more families and communities to discover, love and support our nation’s rich endowment of parks, trails, lands and waters.”
16 states are currently members of the Confluence of States, having committed to supporting the outdoor recreation economy on behalf of their respective governors. Since the formation of the Confluence of States in 2018, the Chair position of the organization has been held by the leaders in Colorado, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, and mostly recently Nevada. Additional members include Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming.
Working alongside outdoor recreation industry leaders, the Confluence of States member states are guided by four pillars of outdoor economy success:
- Conservation and Stewardship
- Education and Workforce Training
- Economic Development
- Public Health and Wellness
The leadership positions moving to states in the Great Lakes region and on the East Coast highlight the growing awareness and relevance of the outdoor recreation economy as it exists in states differently across the country. (The full list of Confluence member states can be found at: https://www.confluenceofstates.com/our-team )
“The Accords are both a guide and an open invitation to every state in the nation,” said Colin Robertson, Administrator of the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation, and the outgoing chair of the group. “As state directors, we have worked together over the last year – and even more deeply over these last few days here on the shores of Lake Tahoe – to ensure that the outdoor recreation economy is understood and supported in both urban and rural communities, and in a way that’s relevant to people from all walks of life in every corner of the country.”
U.S. federal data show that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for $689 billion of economic output for the nation in 2020, representing 1.8% of U.S. GDP and 4.3 million jobs (3% of all employment in the United States).
“The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable is delighted to see Brad Garmon and Carolann Ouellette assume leadership of the Confluence of States,” said Chris Perkins, Senior Director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of made up of 36 outdoor recreation trade associations — as well as other nonprofit organizations and business entities — serving more than 110,000 businesses. “These state leaders are uniquely positioned to advance the benefits of outdoor recreation, from business recruitment and retention, increased visitation, and economic activity, improved public health and wellness benefits, equitable access for communities who have been underserved in outdoor assets in the past, and climate mitigation and adaptation benefits that come from healthy green and blue infrastructure. We look forward to working with the new Confluence of States leadership in the days ahead to continue welcoming more people and business to the outdoors and expanding the positive impacts of this industry for people and communities.”
The Confluence of States is a nonpartisan organization developing a national platform to grow the outdoor recreation industry, protect our nation’s wild places and transform conservation into a driver for economic prosperity.
Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office
Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation
Together Outdoors Marks One Year of Fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Outdoor Recreation
Coalition begins its second year emboldened with over 100 members and launching new initiatives to create a more accessible and welcoming outdoors
Together Outdoors (TO), a coalition committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of the outdoor recreation experience, commemorated its first anniversary with a look back at a year of progress, and a look ahead at new efforts to make the outdoors more accessible and welcoming for everyone.
More than 100 organizations joined TO in its first year, with an initial focus on educating coalition members on the history of exclusionary practices in the outdoors and the challenges that remain for members of under-represented groups who seek to enjoy America’s outdoor spaces. TO’s debut learning tool was an eight-module online training program for outdoor companies, nonprofits, and land management agencies. Topics included insights into, and best practices for, hiring and retaining a diverse workforce, implementing DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) at all levels of the organization, and improving accessibility for the disabled.
“Together Outdoors was born as the result of outdoor industry leaders asking how they could help provide education and drive desperately needed change. TO’s first year was one of reflection, strategic planning and learning,” said Coalition Lead Gerry Seavo James. “With the support of our funders, member organizations, Governance Council, and Advisory Council, we have built a solid foundation and developed effective programs to help make the great outdoors great for everyone. We are proud of everything Together Outdoors has accomplished in its first year and are excited for what’s to come.” Read more of Gerry’s reflections on TO’s first year here.
Together Outdoors’ new efforts build upon 12 months of work made possible by foundational and multi-year support from THOR Industries and the guidance of our Advisory Council and Governance Councils.
TO’s next phase is focused on helping members put what they’ve learned into practice, as well as launching more tools and programs to support its vital mission and to provide ways for the general public to become involved with the coalition’s efforts.
Together Outdoors’ new initiatives include:
Resource Hub Beta Launch – This innovative online database provides a wealth of curated information about building an outdoor community where everyone belongs. These materials include books, articles, research papers, videos, podcasts, and toolkits. Additionally, the hub includes a directory of inclusion-related outdoor organizations, a grant opportunity directory, and the ability to host web-based training programs. The platform will be launched as a Beta with user feedback providing the basis for upgrades and improvements.
Inclusive Spaces Program – Together Outdoors, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, is piloting a program to help recreation space operators and public land management agencies improve accessibility and inclusion in their spaces. Findings from the pilot program, conducted in the Chattanooga, TN region, will be used to develop best practices in every area of outdoor space operation, including the design of physical facilities, staff trainings, storytelling, and language used in printed materials and signage.
Branding and Merchandise – Together Outdoors is pleased to unveil its new logo, which visually conveys the coalition’s message of accessibility and inclusion. The new online store offers logoed clothing that allows people to show their support for TO and a more accessible and welcoming outdoors for all people.
Grant Program – TO recently debuted a grant program designed to support organizations on the front lines of building a more accessible and welcoming outdoor ecosystem thanks to support from THOR Industries and Winnebago Industries. To help offset the history of exclusion of marginalized communities in the grant-making process, TO’s criteria will give priority to individuals from those communities, as well as organizations run by members of those groups.
See more commentary and reflection from coalition members and partners below and here.
“The first year of Together Outdoors was an impactful bringing together of many insightful voices throughout the outdoor landscape,” said Danica Carey, Seirus Innovation, Director of Marketing Operations. “Now moving into their second year, I am very hopeful that the strong leadership of Gerry James supported by the team at ORR will be able to continue to grow this network of resources and collaboration. There is great foundation here for the community building needed to bring forward the cultural shift that is crucial for all of us to thrive into the future.”
“Together Outdoors has been a great resource for Polaris, as we focus on engaging with new diverse customer audiences and inviting them to participate in Powersports,” said Tommy Hillman, Senior Marketing Director at Polaris. “Together Outdoors has provided a forum that allows us to engage with other outdoor-focused organizations that are on a similar journey, where we can learn from each other’s experiences and discuss best practices.”
ORR Applauds Biden Administration’s Assistance to Communities to Grow Outdoor Recreation Economies
Today, after the Biden Administration announced the 25 communities that will receive technical assistance under the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) lauded the announcement below. ORR supported the formation of this program and provided additional funding for five communities to implement their economic development strategies, helping to unlock millions of dollars in additional grant funding. ORR plans to continue working with the Biden Administration and Congress to build the program so it can serve all communities looking for support to establish and grow a thriving and sustainable outdoor recreation economy. Notably, in the two rounds of the program nearly 300 communities have applied for assistance, indicating widespread demand for outdoor recreation economic development. ORR’s Rural Economic Development Toolkit has also helped communities, like the ones awarded today, develop and grow authentic outdoor recreation plans and execute on those proposals.
“The Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program is exactly what rural America needs to harness the high demand for outdoor recreation and develop sustainable economies that benefit locals and visitors alike,” said Jessica Turner, President, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The $689 billion outdoor recreation economy benefits greatly from continued government investment in programs like these that work on the ground and positively impact people, place and planet.”