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Outdoor Industry Association Highlights 2021 State Policy Victories

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Key state budget and policy decisions were made last year to continue supporting the outdoor recreation businesses, people, and economy. Today, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) recounted some of the state policy and investment wins for the outdoor industry as it released its 2021 Recreation in Review.

The investments made by governors and legislators help promote economic growth, reinforce the value of accessible public lands and waters, and create healthier communities, said the OIA. 

One of last year’s investment highlights was when Indiana’s state budget allotted $60 million for the state’s trails.

In New Mexico, $900,000 was added to finance its Outdoor Equity Fund grant program. Alaska also invested in its outdoor economy by including a budget for improvements and connections on the Fairbank to Seward Multi-Use Recreation Trail.

Furthermore, Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office was formally recognized in statute and the office was granted full funding. 

California residents will also be enjoying more parks in the future as Governor Gavin Newsom announced $548 million in funding to expand and build parks throughout the state. Governor Roy Cooper also followed suit when he allocated $500 million in North Carolina’s budget

for investments in parks, trails, and other outdoor recreation amenities.

Both Virginia and Kentucky continued their support for outdoor recreation with Former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam having proposed $245 million in investments in outdoor recreation and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announcing $5.3 million from the state’s ARPA allocations to promote outdoor recreation, travel, and tourism.

Washington experienced a major win as well when the state funded the Parks Rx program with $200,000. The investment in its No Child Left Behind Program also tripled in size while its support for wildlife continued with $100 million in funding approved for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP).

Last but not least for 2021’s investment highlights, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer proposed that the state legislature set a budget for over a hundred recreation and land acquisition projects across Michigan this year.

Policy Victories

In what seemed to be a fruitful year for the Outdoor Industry Association, more state outdoor recreation offices were established, and more policies supporting the industry were approved by states in 2021.

An Office of Outdoor Recreation has been created for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with Daryl Anthony filling in the role as the first executive director. He will collaborate with DNR, the Maryland Department of Commerce, as well as other agencies and organizations to

bolster the outdoor economy and improve Maryland’s outdoor amenities.

Anthony will also work to follow through on Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission’s recommendations.

Seeing outdoor recreation as a “major economic force,” Arkansas will now also have an Office of Outdoor Recreation, as per the order of Governor Asa Hutchinson. The agency will be led by Director Katherine Andrews and the Arkansas Outdoor Recreation Advisory Board.

Policies supporting a robust outdoor economy, education, and access include the Outdoor Equity Grant Program and better recreation funding for Colorado through the Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass; an Outdoor Learning Committee for Georgia’s youth; and Outdoor Recreation Tourism Program for Nevada. According to the OIA, this program will support the EV

infrastructure needs of Nevada’s outdoor industry.

Looking ahead, the OIA believes that “federal investment on its own is not enough” as the years ahead will pave the way for decision-makers to further support the outdoor recreation industry and outdoor economies.

“State leadership must ensure that these national investments are met with state funds and

policies to carry out the on-the-ground work of building stronger and more inclusive outdoor

recreation assets and economies,” the Outdoor Industry Association said as it ended the report.

The association urged governors or legislators to consider the creation of state-level outdoor recreation offices as well as annual appropriations for the development and maintenance of outdoor recreation assets and green infrastructure, and innovative mechanisms to fund conservation and recreation.

The organization also suggested that these leaders invest in outdoor education for youth and adults, consider funding and programs to eliminate barriers and to get more diverse users outside for sustained connections to nature, and lastly, additional funding and technical assistance to outdoor businesses and outdoor economies.

To know read OIA’s 2021 Recreation in Review report, click here. To learn more about additional policy options, click here.

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