End of the year budget bill passed today boosts outdoor recreation and conservation

Washington, D.C., December 19, 2019 – Today was a great day for recreation programs, new and old. The 2020 spending package passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate delivers a funding boost for a host of outdoor recreation, access and conservation priorities. Importantly, it directs new studies that will help the industry measure our contributions to recreation infrastructure as well as the federal government’s investments.

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable’s (ORR) elevation of the recreation economy, and our members’ continued engagement with lawmakers has resulted in some big wins, including the highest funding levels for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 15 years. This will increase the number of recreation projects possible across the country. Saltwater anglers and the marine industry are praising the increase to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for fisheries management, weather forecasting and ocean monitoring. The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service also got a much-needed capital boost to address outstanding needs.

“Today’s budget announcement is the result of hard work by ORR members and our partners in the outdoor industry. It illustrates the important role that outdoor recreation plays in our national economy and how important recreation-related polices are to people across the country. We are most proud to have played a role in bringing the new economic studies to fruition,” said Jessica Wahl, Executive Director of ORR. “We urge legislators and the administration to recognize the $778 billion economic impact of the industry and carry out the appropriate investments and policies that will continue to support our growth.”

Below are some lesser known wins ORR members lead the way on that you should be aware of:

  • Outdoor recreation champions Senators Shaheen (D-NH) and Gardner (R-CO) secured $1.5 million for the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, directing the Bureau of Economic Analysis to measure the impact of the outdoor recreation economy, and deliver state-level data, on an annual basis.

“With the ORSA data, Congress is able to understand the full strength and impact of outdoor recreation on the U.S. economy for the first time,” said Craig Kirby, RV Industry Association President. “This report has been instrumental in showing the importance of policies that support the growth of the outdoor recreation economy, including addressing the deferred maintenance on federal lands as well as modernizing and expanding campgrounds. We thank Congress for recognizing the importance of this study and voting to continue its funding.”

  • Congress approved a study by the Government Accountability Office on government funding for outdoor recreation. The study will evaluate programs carried out by federal agencies that directly impact the outdoor recreation sector. Further, congress directed the department to continue its engagement with the outdoor recreation industry, non-profit organizations and recreation groups to further refine national and state data collection methods.

“We know the return on investment for outdoor recreation is generally strong, however it’s time we know how much, and where government funding contributes. This will help us advocate for the right line items during future appropriations discussions and better track the government’s funding in relationship to our tax revenue and GDP contributions,” said Glenn Hughes, President of American Sportfishing Association. “We thank Senators Schumer and Bennet for spearheading this effort.”

  • The Recreational Trails Program also got a boost. Off-road motorized recreation (all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, utility vehicles, etc.) generates nearly $300 million in annual revenue for the highway trust fund with approximately 33% of the revenue apportioned to the states for the Recreational Trail Program. In an effort to return a more equitable share of these resources for recreational trails, Congress has directed the Federal Highway Administration to quantify how much money is contributed to the Highway Trust Fund by non-highway motorized recreation. This will provide a clearer picture of how much excise tax revenue is generated by motorized recreation and inform Congress on how best to return that revenue for the recreational trail infrastructure used by millions of Americans engaged in motorized and non-motorized recreation.

“The Recreational Trails Program is extremely important for developing and maintaining trails used by off-road enthusiasts in all 50 states,” said Erik Pritchard, President of the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association. “This fuel study will update the estimate of gas taxes paid by our off-road community, so the RTP funding will be more representative of the ‘user pay’ philosophy of the RTP.”

We expect this bill to be signed into law before the new year and look forward to working with the administration on carrying new studies that will inform recreation policies for years to come.

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