Annual Outdoor Recreation Conference Focused on Impacts of the Pandemic on Participation and Access, Rural Economic Development, Conservation, the Future Workforce and More 

This week over 150 outdoor recreation industry leaders came together with federal agency and conservation partners for Outdoor Recreation Roundtable’s annual forum, Partners Outdoors. During the first day of the virtual event attendees participated in discussions on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry, participation trends, how the recently passed Great American Outdoors Act and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund will improve outdoor recreation infrastructure and access, and how rural communities can build their economies through recreation. The event coincided with the start of Great Outdoors Month and a Presidential Proclamation from President Biden. Coordinated by ORR and celebrated every year in June, Great Outdoors Month encourages healthy, active outdoor recreation through hundreds of local events organized by partner organizations taking place in all 50 states. President Biden is the fifth president in a row to sign a Great Outdoors Month proclamation. 

Partners Outdoors was kicked off by Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse (CO-2), and featured keynote addresses by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz and the Chief of the United States Forest Service. The conference included over 40 speakers hailing from the White House, the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Oregon State University, Motorcycle Industry Council, Outdoor Industry Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, KOA, Vista Outdoor, Brunswick Corporation, Rivian, the Business Roundtable, the Greening Youth Foundation and many more.

“Now is the time to deliver recreation differently, and more importantly, to expand access to public lands and benefits for all Americans,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The visitation increase we saw in 2020 and expect to see again this year provides a great opportunity to meaningfully serve more Americans, increase the economic vitality and quality of life in communities, improve mental and physical health, and connect even more people to conservation.”

The event highlighted building the outdoor recreation workforce through diversified talent pipelines, developing trainings for anticipated skills gaps, and enhancing career pathways into the industry – all challenges for a powerful but growing sector. The event also included sessions on the future of recreation funding, management and policy, as well as how the industry can foster increased inclusivity.

“At this year’s Partners Outdoors event we had a lot of catching up to do after not holding one in 2020 due to the timing of the pandemic. With an increase in outdoor participation across the nation, the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and full and permanent funding of LWCF, impacts of climate change and dynamic changes in recreation demand and technology, recreation as a rural economic driver and inequities in access, this convening was as informational as it was exciting and solution-oriented” said Jessica Turner, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “Any one of those issues would make for major discussions at Partners Outdoors, let alone all of them! We are so thankful for our informative speakers, everyone who attended and our sponsors including Brunswick Corporation, CHM Government Services, KOA, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, Mindgrub, Ocean Spray, Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy, the VF Corporation, Vista Outdoor and Vista Outdoor Foundation and Winnebago Industries.”

ORR and the recreation community also celebrated 2020’s Legends Awards recipients during the event. Since 1991, Legends Awards have honored employees from federal agencies that manage outdoor recreation on public lands and waters for outstanding work to improve outdoor recreation experiences and opportunities for the American people.

Partners Outdoors offers organizations from across the industry a chance to take a deeper look at challenges and opportunities facing the outdoor recreation community and begin to chart a path forward so that we can continue to work together on these common goals and provide actionable solutions.

Check out the Partners Outdoors website for more information, as well as videos from the event as they are posted: