Legislation includes Rural Outdoor Investment Act, clears key committee with unanimous support


Washington, D.C. – The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) applauds the markup of the Economic Development Reauthorization Act of 2024, which has a historic focus on outdoor recreation through the inclusion of the Rural Outdoor Investment Act (ROI). The legislation passed unanimously out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee earlier today and reinforces America’s commitment to economic development, with a new emphasis on outdoor recreation.

The Economic Development Reauthorization Act of 2024 sets a new precedent by recognizing outdoor recreation as a cornerstone of the rural economy. It mandates prioritization in funding opportunities for infrastructure grants within the EDA’s public works program to support outdoor recreation. This legislation will grow the public works program’s funding to $270 million annually, effectively doubling the support for communities to invest in recreation infrastructure such as boat ramps, trails, and campgrounds. These investments are critical for the expansion of Main Street economies, ensuring a sustainable economic future and enhancing the quality of life for residents across the nation.

“This legislative milestone is a testament to the undeniable value of outdoor recreation to America’s rural economies and the overall well-being of our communities,” said Jessica Wahl Turner, President of ORR. “By doubling down on investments in outdoor infrastructure, the Senate is acknowledging the transformative power of the outdoors. This is not just an investment in infrastructure; it’s also an investment in sustainable economic growth, public health, and community well-being. We are grateful to Senators Schumer, Bennet, Capito, and Carper for spearheading the inclusion of the Rural Outdoor Investment Act in the Economic Development Reauthorization Act and are excited about the momentum to unlock new opportunities for outdoor recreation across the country.”

Sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), the Economic Development Reauthorization Act of 2024 enjoys bipartisan support and marks the first reauthorization of the EDA in nearly two decades. The bill’s focus on modernizing the EDA’s core programs—including workforce development, disaster assistance, broadband deployment, and renewable energy initiatives—complements its new emphasis on outdoor recreation. Additionally, the legislation updates laws related to Federal Regional Commissions and establishes two new commissions to better address the evolving economic needs of communities and the nation.

The ORR and its members stand ready to collaborate with the EDA and rural communities across the country to leverage these new opportunities. The recognition of outdoor recreation in the Economic Development Reauthorization Act of 2024 heralds a new era for rural economies, promising enhanced economic resilience, job creation, and a strengthened national commitment to the great outdoors.

Earlier this year, ORR released the second edition of its Rural Economic Development Toolkit. This essential resource, built upon three years of extensive research across the United States, is a comprehensive guide for communities looking to strengthen their economies through outdoor recreation. As part of this research, ORR is also aggregating a list of communities seeking support in rural economic development through outdoor recreation–now at 130 communities after just six weeks of data collection and still growing.