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.