Author: Patrick Durkin
How much impact does outdoor recreation have on our economy?
About $646 billion, to be exact.
That’s a staggering number – and outdoor-recreation industry leaders are working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to ensure archery, bowhunting, fishing, shooting and other fun activities keep generating such impacts. It’s not just talk, either: Members of this coalition – the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable – held briefings March 7 for the Senate and House of Representatives.
The newly created ORIR, which includes the Archery Trade Association, harnesses the economic and political power of 18 trade associations ranging from boating and bowhunting to snowmobiling and horseback riding. In addition to its massive financial impact, outdoor recreation provides 6.1 million jobs nationwide, and regularly uses federal properties that cover 30 percent of the United States’ land mass.
After November’s election, the ORIR began working with President Donald Trump’s transition team to explore ways to increase access and outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans. In early March, ORIR launched its “Putting ‘Great’ Back in America’s Great Outdoors” campaign, which included the March 7 Capitol Hill briefings. These successful, well-attended meetings opened doors to deeper communication and partnerships between ORIR and congressional offices.
After November’s election, the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable began working with President Donald Trump’s transition team to explore ways to increase access and outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans.
“Many federal agencies are reducing or eliminating recreational opportunities because of cuts in federal spending,” said Jay McAninch, ATA’s CEO/president. “The ORIR-member industries find that tragic, and so they’re offering private investments on public lands to provide all Americans more chances to recreate outdoors. It’s an American birthright. Our industry believes this is a much-needed stimulus for federal lands, which are sorely lacking in welcoming our citizens outdoors.”
The ORIR is focused on ensuring tight federal budgets don’t reduce access to public lands and waters, or diminish the quality of outdoor experiences. In fact, solutions to budget-related challenges have long been found in public/private partnerships and investments on the nation’s public lands. ORIR members believe such solutions should be embraced.
“An Eisenhower-era infrastructure and public-lands management approach will not meet the needs of a 21st century consumer,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the RV Industry Association. “That is why we were on Capitol Hill, introducing the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable to the Senate and House of Representative, and sharing our ideas about policy and regulatory reforms necessary to grow the outdoor recreation economy.”
“Many federal agencies are reducing or eliminating recreational opportunities because of cuts in federal spending,” said Jay McAninch, ATA’s president/CEO. “The ORIR-member industries find that tragic, and so they’re offering private investments on public lands to provide all Americans more chances to recreate outdoors.”
McAninch listed several goals ORIR is exploring with lawmakers and federal officials:
1) Economic realities make public-private partnerships more vital than ever: Cutbacks in federal funding prompted ORIR to offer private investments on public lands to ensure Americans can visit and enjoy them. “The outdoor recreation industries have offered a much-needed stimulus for federal lands, especially those near large urban areas where people can easily access opportunities we can provide,” McAninch said. “We need to make sure these lands have modern facilities and equipment; well-maintained trails, ranges and docks; and access to fishing and hunting.”
2) Ensure the government recognizes outdoor recreation’s contributions to the economy: “It’s been too easy to think of outdoor recreation as the ‘fun’ business, especially because federal-government reports focus on manufacturing, finance, entertainment and other traditional segments of the economy. Outdoor recreation was always embedded in many economic sectors, making its value hard to estimate,” McAninch said.
Specifying outdoor recreation’s economic value got much easier in 2016 when the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act. President Obama signed the bipartisan act into law Dec. 8, directing the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to compile and analyze outdoor recreation’s impact on the economy. “This is a landmark change for our industry because we can now count on the federal government to report the economic impact of outdoor recreation on federal lands similar to how it reports environmental impacts.”
3) Measure and use data that matters: “By tracking our industries’ collective economic impact, we can present hard, factual data that show why outdoor recreation, including archery and bowhunting, matter,” McAninch said. “Our collective economic impact keeps us well-positioned to help states and the federal government maximize the value of our nation’s public lands.”
Jay McAninch, center, delivers a Capitol Hill briefing March 7 as part of the 18-member Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable.
4) Increase public- and private-sector partnerships: Yes, it’s possible to invest private money into public lands for everyone’s benefit. Previous public/private partnerships were too rare, but included ski areas on national forests, lodges in national parks, and marinas on waterways. The potential is huge for private investment to update and improve access to millions of acres of land and water.
5) Build and improve public-land infrastructure: “We’re ready to invest in better trails for hiking, biking, hunting and horseback riding; and in marinas, restrooms, shooting ranges, fishing piers, trailhead parking, and campgrounds for tents to RVs,” McAninch said. “We want to repair or replace facilities that have fallen into disrepair, or are simply outdated. We also want to see more Wi-Fi and broadband service on federal lands. Like it or not, a new generation insists on staying connected wherever they go. If Wi-Fi and broadband help attract them to public lands, why not provide it?”
6) Change the mindset of federal agencies: “Probably the most significant request the ORIR is making is a cultural change in federal agencies toward visitors,” McAninch said. “We want land managers to see visitors as guests, and to maximize their experiences. We want federal agencies to reward improvements in customer service and increases in outdoor opportunities. Sadly, too much emphasis has been placed on protecting and limiting access, and maintaining visitation processes that don’t accommodate online reservations, real-time information, and other modern customer-service tools.”
Members of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable held briefings March 7 for the Senate and House of Representatives. The ORIR includes 18 trade associations ranging from boating and bowhunting to snowmobiling and horseback riding.
7) Expand the range of services: “People in our increasingly urban society need more than a picnic table and a patch of ground when they visit a national park or campground,” McAninch said. “They also want to bike, fish, hike, paddle, shoot archery, ride horses, bowhunt and drive ATVs and powerboats. Most federal lands aren’t dominated by environmentally sensitive or historically significant landmarks. They can accommodate a wider range of outdoor recreation.”
8) Develop digital-information strategies for federal-lands recreation: Americans need current and accurate information about where to find the experiences they seek. Once there, they’re eager to share their experiences digitally in real time. Federal-land managers must find new ways to keep the nation’s outdoor legacy relevant. Free, real-time communications help people share recreation on federal lands. Increased visitation increases the value of public lands to all Americans.
9) Bowhunting and archery are part of the public-lands conversation: Whether you’re bowhunting bears and deer in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest, or trophy elk in Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, you understand the value of our nation’s federal lands. The ATA is working to ensure those opportunities remain while expanding access to archery ranges, and bowhunting and bowfishing on myriad federal lands nationwide.
“Archery and bowhunting have been part of the conversation during our briefings and meetings in Washington the past three months,” McAninch said. “Whether it’s Ryan Zinke, the new secretary of the Interior, or senators and congressmen, they’re all hearing our message and asking good questions.”