Outdoor recreation received a significant boost in the Farm Bill, which passed the United States Senate December 11, the U.S. House of Representatives December 12 and was signed by the President December 20.

Opening the door for outdoor recreation projects and programs in rural communities to access the rural economic development grants, new language in the Rural Development Title expects Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to “identify and support opportunities for outdoor recreation-related investments that result in rural economic growth, including outdoor recreation businesses, facilities, infrastructure, planning, and marketing.” It also asks the Secretary to “encourage coordination between Rural Development and U.S. Forest Service staff to identify opportunities to cooperate and leverage resources and investments.”

Additions to the Forestry Title provide clarification on existing authorities for the outdoor recreation industry by specifically allowing the Secretary to “consider opportunities to restore sustainable recreational infrastructure or access, or to accomplish other recreation outcomes” as long as the opportunities are consistent with the primary restoration purpose of the project.

The inclusion of these recreation-related items in the Farm Bill adds new momentum to an industry that already accounts for 2.2% of the American economy and supports 4.5 million jobs — many of them in rural areas. For more information on outdoor recreation’s contributions to the nation’s economy, visit www.recreationroundtable.org/ORSA.

Conservation efforts are also getting a boost.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill’s Conservation Title represents close to $28 billion in investments over the next four years.  This includes tripling funding for the popular Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which will leverage an estimated additional $3 billion in private sector dollars for conservation.  The program offers opportunities for public and private partners to work together to harness innovation, expand the conservation mission and demonstrate the value and efficacy of voluntary, private lands conservation.

For more information on the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable’s legislative priorities in the lame-duck session and beyond, click here.