Congressional and administration officials joined recreation industry leaders, including NMMA, last Thursday to mark the formal launch of the nation’s premier coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR). The event provided a platform for the group to officially outline its priorities as it works to educate decision makers on Capitol Hill about the importance of the outdoor recreation economy and ensure our nation’s public lands and waters remain accessible for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Capitol Hill reception brought together a bipartisan group of lawmakers and staff – including seven Members of Congress – committed to enhancing America’s great outdoors and increasing public accessibility through common-sense policy solutions. With attendance on public lands and waters dwindling and facilities aging, ORR aims to ensure an attractive and enjoyable experience for visitors. From WiFi availability to refurbished marinas, infrastructure upgrades must be a priority. Due to the maintenance back-log and budget shortfall facing our National Park System, private partnerships and funding can make these much-needed upgrades a reality. What’s more, adequate access for outdoor recreation on our public lands and waters deserves attention. In this arena, ORR’s priorities range from revamping the permitting process so it runs more efficiently, reducing permitting periods from what can often take years, to ensuring land and water management decisions fully balance conservation and access so outdoor enthusiasts aren’t wrongfully restricted from experiencing public spaces.
During the bipartisan congressional reception at the Rayburn House Office Building, ORR emphasized the importance of the outdoor recreation industry to the U.S. economy. The launch also included the unveiling of a new website, www.RecreationRoundtable.org, which will serve as a resource to learn more about the industry’s economic impact, the coalition’s membership and the latest outdoor recreation news from across the country.
Earlier in the day, outdoor recreation leaders met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to discuss the role of the department’s new Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, which will serve as a collaborative panel to facilitate public-private partnerships that improve public lands and waters. Discussions with the secretary also included ways that the Interior Department, which manages more than 25 percent of the American landscape, can elevate outdoor recreation as a federal priority.
“It is a landmark day for the outdoor recreation industry in the United States,” said Thom Dammrich, ORR chair and president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “From boating and fishing to camping and hiking, we are united in working toward a shared goal of making outdoor recreation a national priority. Our public lands and waters are vital to our daily lives as Americans as well as to our larger economy. As outdoor enthusiasts and organizations that represent millions of workers across the country, together, we can ensure outdoor recreation remains a treasured pastime and economic driver.”
The events follow the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) report that found the outdoor recreation industry’s annual gross output to be $673 billion, surpassing other sectors such as agriculture, petroleum and coal, and computer and electronic products. This was the first time BEA, the government agency responsible for reporting U.S. GDP, included the outdoor recreation industry in its calculations. In addition, BEA found that outdoor recreation makes up 2 percent of the U.S. GDP and has increased an average of 4.4 percent since 2012, significantly greater than the 3.6 percent average increase in the overall U.S. GDP.
“America’s outdoor recreation industry is finally being recognized by national leaders for its importance to the health of the U.S. economy, and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable is going to play a major role in advocating for policies that ensure we can continue being a driving economic force,” said ORR Vice Chair Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the RV Industry Association. “Our members serve the nation’s millions of outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and our top priority is to advocate for policies that will provide them with a better experience through improved public lands and waters infrastructure. Doing so will lead to an enhanced recreation economy that benefits all Americans.”
ORR’s policy agenda includes several key pillars that will improve the outdoor recreation economy and enhance America’s public lands and waters for generations. The agenda includes:
- Fostering collaboration between the outdoor recreation industry and federal policy makers;
- Removing barriers that prevent improvement and maintenance of public lands through public-private partnerships;
- Prioritizing accessibility of public lands so that more Americans can enjoy the great outdoors;
- Advancing balanced policies that conserve public lands and waterways so that they can be accessed and enjoyed today and by future generations of Americans; and
- Ensuring that the outdoor recreation economy is recognized by policymakers for its importance to the health of the overall economy.