Outdoor Businesses Issue Letter To Leaders McConnell And Schumer On Importance Of Great American Outdoors Act

Jun 9, 2020

The bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) invests in the much-needed repair of national park, forests and public lands infrastructure and in protecting and providing recreational access for all Americans. As this legislation makes its way to the Senate for a vote, a collective group of outdoor businesses issued the following letter to leaders McConnell and Schumer on the importance of the passage of this bill.

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

The outdoor recreation industry is extremely encouraged by recent announcements that the Senate plans to hold a vote on the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) in June. As outdoor recreation business leaders, we know investments in recreation access and infrastructure are vital to the outdoor recreation industry and economies across the country.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the outdoor recreation industry contributed $778 billion in economic output, accounted for 2.2 percent of United States Gross Domestic Product, supported 5.2 million jobs and was growing faster than the economy as a whole in every indicator. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns necessary to slow its progression, America’s outdoor recreation economy was hindered when we needed the outdoors more than ever. Outdoor Recreation Roundtable’s April survey of the sector shows that 79 percent of outdoor businesses have had to lay off or furlough employees, and 89 percent are seeing decreased revenue. However, we know there is a bright future for outdoor recreation ahead, as several sectors of the industry are already experiencing rapidly increasing demand.

These outdoor businesses are the backbone of our industry and range from specialty retailers, apparel, gear and vehicle manufacturers, outfitters and guides to campground and marina operators. They are often foundational to a community’s economy. With rising unemployment and Americans eager to experience the outdoors, investment in our industry’s core infrastructure – public lands and waters – will allow our businesses to get back to what we do best: stimulate local economies, put people back to work, and allow Americans to benefit from time spent outside.

This is why we respectfully ask you to pass the Great American Outdoors Act as soon as possible.

GAOA will fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually, providing more recreation access for communities across the country and fueling more outdoor recreation economic activity. In a nutshell, if Congress invests the intended amount of $900 million into LWCF recreation access projects on local, state and federal lands, it will create much-needed close-to-home recreation opportunities while revitalizing the outdoor recreation economy.

Additionally, GAOA dedicates up to $9.5 billion over the next five years to maintenance backlog projects that have been devastating our public lands and waters. Investing in these projects will improve outdoor recreation-related facilities such as docks, restrooms, campgrounds, trails, roads and more that have deteriorated significantly from decades of underfunded maintenance. As business leaders, we understand the need to make sure customers have good experiences when they visit stores or facilities, it ensures they come back again. Funding the maintenance backlog will also ensure that adequate infrastructure for all types of recreation on our public lands and waters exists so more people who are seeking the benefits the outdoors has to offer can get outside safely and grow our industry sustainably.

Passing GAOA now would stimulate the outdoor recreation industry made up of thousands of businesses that support communities in all 50 states, support rural economies, create jobs to carry out essential work, and provide opportunities for millions of Americans to recreate on our public lands and waters for generations to come. We know this vital legislation is slated for a vote in the coming weeks and we urge you to move as quickly as possible to get this legislation across the finish line. Your support of GAOA is a vote for American jobs and health, community resiliency and the outdoor recreation economy. Thank you for your leadership.