Recreation took center stage at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 8 as Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) leaders and recreation company CEOs met with Secretary Sonny Perdue, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Jim Hubbard and other key officials. The group noted the importance of national forests to many recreational activities, and highlighted the world-class experiences provided to anglers and skiers, hikers, climbers, campers, paddlers, boaters and motorized trail enthusiasts. The recreation leaders underscored the key role national forests play in rural economies across the country and the importance of key provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that will allow rural economic development grants for recreation infrastructure in rural America.

The Secretary said wildfire costs had impacted the department’s recent recreation efforts, and thanked the recreation industry for its role in recent legislation that should control future fire costs at USDA and allow the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the recreation industry achieve new recreation successes built around partnerships. He told the group about his initiatives for recreation during his tenure as governor of Georgia, boosting boat ramps, fishing programs, state parks and more. 

ORR participants referred to positive actions already underway at USDA which are helpful to growing an industry that already accounts for 2.2% of the nation’s economy and supports 4.6 million jobs. They emphasized the need for an improved recreation permitting process and urged expanded partnerships to improve access to, and enjoyment of, outdoor recreation on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service. They described opportunities for immediate progress, including: