Conservation

Dan Forster Blog: Outdoor Recreation – A National Priority

Dan Forster discusses the focus on improving outdoor experiences and why they are becoming national priorities.
Photo Credit: Shannon Rikard

Author: Dan Forster

Outdoor recreation has taken a back seat at state and federal agencies in recent years, but that’s changing. With the introduction of recreation specialists – state or federal employees who focus on improving outdoor experiences – those opportunities are becoming national priorities.

As proof, two “recreation czars” attended the 2018 ATA Trade Show to show support for the archery industry, and listen to ATA members’ insights into our industry’s priorities, challenges and concerns.

Rick May – a lifelong bowhunter, five-time state champion archer, and former Navy Seal captain – was appointed senior adviser to Secretary Zinke in early November. Photo Credit: Shannon Rikard

Industries Rally for Outdoor Recreation

When Ryan Zinke, secretary of the U.S. Interior Department, announced hiring the nation’s first recreation czar in November, the outdoor community felt gratified. We worked with other partners behind the scenes before Secretary Zinke’s confirmation to make outdoor recreation a priority for the Trump administration and its Interior Department.

We also partnered with many organizations to create the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of America’s leading outdoor-recreation trade associations. We then worked to promote policies and legislative reforms to grow the outdoor recreation economy. The ORR committee sent this message to the Trump administration:

“Recreation on America’s lands and waterways is more than just a national pastime. It is a massive economic engine and creator of jobs. Recreation plays a crucial role in fostering appreciation for the beauty and vastness of the United States, as well as the values of environmental stewardship and conservation in future generations. It also directly improves the health and well-being of millions of Americans who visit our nation’s public and private lands and waterways each year. The vast opportunities for outdoor recreation in America contribute to the foundation of our national identity, and provide countless benefits that cut across socioeconomic, cultural and regional lines.”

Our goal was to secure a better future for bowhunters, recreational shooters and other outdoor enthusiasts by prioritizing issues that affect our core customers. In the past, outdoor recreation hasn’t received the attention it deserves at the federal level. As a result, related policies and programs are often unfocused, inconsistent and plagued by insufficient resources. That approach hinders the outdoor industry, which generates $887 billion in economic impact annually, and supports 7.6 million jobs nationwide, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Outdoor Recreation a National Priority

Rick May – a lifelong bowhunter, five-time state champion archer, and former Navy Seal captain – was appointed senior adviser to Secretary Zinke in early November. May’s job is to focus on outdoor recreational activities and advise Interior on improving them. That means May will try to improve access to federal lands overseen by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Access can include hunting and shooting, and work on infrastructure for roads, trails, campgrounds and other amenities used by bowhunters and other outdoor enthusiasts.

May’s hiring is exciting and essential to our industry because we’ll finally have someone focused on critical challenges to bowhunting. This move also reaffirms Secretary Zinke’s commitment to expand recreational access to America’s public lands. It’s a vital step toward harnessing the collective might of outdoor recreation’s economy and supporting its continued growth.

We’re fortunate to have May in this position, and we were equally fortunate – and honored – that he joined us at January’s ATA Trade Show in Indianapolis. Ben Cassidy, Interior’s senior deputy director for external and intergovernmental affairs, accompanied May. They listened to ATA members to hear our industry’s priorities, challenges and concerns. They also confirmed Zinke’s support for our industry and hunting heritage.

The Interior Department believes outdoor recreation offices are critical liaisons with federal agencies, which manage about 30 percent of the nation’s surface area, including prime local and destination sites for recreation. Photo Credit: Shannon Rikard

States also Focused on Outdoor Recreation

The ATA also hosted Montana’s first “recreation czar,” Rachel VandeVoort, at the Show. VandeVoort was recently appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock to direct Montana’s office of outdoor recreation. By attending the Show, VandeVoort proved that growing and supporting our industry is a Montana priority .

Positions similar to VandeVoort’s are also part of state governments in Utah, Colorado, Vermont, Washington, North Carolina and others. According to the Interior Department, at least eight governors have created an office of outdoor recreation to ensure interaction among state programs overseeing health, transportation, parks and wildlife, and economic development. That oversight ensures the quality, dimension and sustainability of outdoor recreation, and enhances its impact on state economies.

The ATA is excited to see these state initiatives and collective efforts, and we hope our industry gets the time and attention it deserves.

Developing Plans

Zinke and May also hope to have recreation specialists advise governors in all 50 states. To aid that initiative, May invited key partners and leaders from state outdoor recreation offices and federal land-managing agencies to meet in Washington on Feb. 23. They hope to explore “coordination opportunities” during the meeting, and use the event as a national kickoff for this initiative.

The Interior Department believes outdoor recreation offices are critical liaisons with federal agencies, which manage about 30 percent of the nation’s surface area, including prime local and destination sites for recreation. This relationship makes access for hunting and shooting sports a primary goal of these efforts, and signals a great need for the ATA and its members to engage in state-level efforts.

May and VandeVoort’s presence at the ATA Trade Show clearly showed our community, and the nation, that our industry is a priority for outdoor recreation. Archery and bowhunting are vital to our nation’s outdoor heritage and economy, and high-ranking federal and state officials support them. May and VandeVoort also pledged to work together to help grow the industry by boosting recreational demands.

For those reasons and more, I believe things are off to a good start with this administration. Further, the Interior Department recently released its “2017 Hunting and Fishing Accomplishments,” with signed secretarial orders that seek to increase hunting and fishing opportunities. The orders place a special focus on veterans, minorities and youths. “We’re just getting started,” Cassidy said.

It’s Your Turn

I encourage ATA members to stay updated on state-level efforts so you can engage and promote archery and bowhunting priorities. It’s seldom fun or easy. Shaping government policy is a contact sport, after all, and only those who show up and participate get heard and wield influence. Best of luck, and let us know how we can help!

Share This Story