Senior officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service met with representatives of the outdoor recreation industry on Apr. 24 to discuss ways to give more people access to active, healthful fun on America’s public lands and waters by improving infrastructure and finding opportunities for innovation and public-private partnerships.
“No team wins by itself, and when you get right down to it, public-private partnerships are where success is going to happen,” said Jim Houser, group president for Delaware North.
Outdoor recreation is big business, generating $646 billion in direct economic spending and supporting more than 6 million jobs across all 50 states, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. DOI Senior White House Advisor Doug Domenech outlined key goals and challenges, and emphasized the need to expand access on public lands and waters.
“The Roosevelt Arch [at Yellowstone National Park] says ‘For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,’ and bringing people back to the equation is clearly an important issue,” he said.
Participants exchanged ideas on how the private industry can help upgrade facilities, increase connectivity, implement electronic passes, modernize campsites and more. Industry members also offered suggestions to help reduce the multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlog plaguing public lands, such as extending concessions contracts, increasing service hours, restructuring fee retention, reducing barriers to private investment and reassessing backlog needs.
“For the first time ever, representatives from all sectors of the outdoor recreation industry convened to share with senior land management officials our common interests,” said Paul Vitrano, vice president of Global Government Relations for Polaris Industries, who represented the Motorcycle Industry Council at the meeting as board chair. “Together, we want increased and improved access, a better visitor experience plus conservation. Most importantly, the industry is committed to being a partner with the public sector to meet these goals.”
Access was identified as a crucial area where the private sector can help federal partners improve visitors’ outdoor experiences. Participants also discussed the value of adopting practices to improve and increase access, the streamlining of permitting processes and closer management partnerships with state fish and wildlife agencies and the recreation industry.
“The recreation industry is inextricably linked to our public lands,” said Duane Taylor, the MIC’s director of Federal Affairs. “Sustainable access to public lands equals sustainable positive economic impact, jobs and a better quality of life for recreation consumers. I am excited about how this message was received by agency officials and I look forward to continuing the dialogue.”
The Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable hosted the meeting at Skyland Resort, operated by National Park concessioner Delaware North. In addition to Department of the Interior and Forest Service officials, more than 30 outdoor recreation industry representatives and several industry CEOs attended the meeting.
Recreation industry representatives also suggested support for DOI funding in the fiscal year 2018 federal budget, encouraging a Recreation Title in upcoming infrastructure legislation and prioritizing the Outdoor REC Act, which ensures that the outdoor recreation industry’s economic value is included in the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. They discussed how public-private partnerships can help promote awareness and support for America’s outdoors by capitalizing on industry efforts such as Go RVing, Discover Boating and TakeMeFishing. ORIR members noted that their trade shows, which are the eight largest recreation trade shows in the country, could be perfect opportunities to enhance communications between the DOI and the nation’s recreation community.
“An extraordinary opportunity is presenting itself,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and an ORIR member. “Never before has an industry coalition with all outdoor recreation sectors come together with a unified voice to offer assistance in improving visitor experiences on America’s public lands and waters. Our great outdoors can be a unifying force in an era of political divisions, and the outdoor recreation industry stands ready to join forces with Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in providing healthy, active outdoor fun to all Americans.”
The Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable is a coalition of America’s leading outdoor recreation trade associations working to promote the policy and legislative reforms needed to grow the outdoor recreation economy. Roundtable members represent the thousands of U.S. businesses that produce vehicles, equipment, gear, apparel and services for the millions of Americans who enjoy our nation’s parks, waterways, byways, trails and outdoor spaces. Combined, the various business sectors within the outdoor recreation industry generate $646 billion per year in economic activity and provide an estimated 6.1 million direct jobs. Coalition members produce the eight largest recreation trade shows in the U.S. and their members annually contribute $40 billion in federal excise tax, sales tax and duties.