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Thursday
Mar302017

Offices of Outdoor Recreation Set to Take Over the West

By Tania Lown-Hecht

Outdoor Alliance

The world of outdoor recreation is making its mark on state legislatures across the west. In the last few years, three states (Washington, Utah, and Colorado) have created Offices of Outdoor Recreation to oversee and improve outdoor experiences in the state, and Montana has announced its intent to create an Outdoor Recreation Office. Next week, Oregon and California will make a move to join their neighbors and create Outdoor Recreation Offices of their own.

On Monday, Oregon’s House Economic Development and Trade Committee will have a hearing on H.B. 3350, which will create an Office of Outdoor Recreation within the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. On Tuesday, California’s state Assembly will hear testimony on Assembly Bill 907, which creates an Office of Outdoor Recreation for California.

Both bills reflect the recognition that outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse for the states. Outdoor Alliance has been working closely with the Outdoor Industry Association to support the creation of these offices. In Oregon, the outdoor industry creates $12.8 billion in consumer spending and supports over 140,000 jobs. In California, the outdoor industry generates over $85 billion in consumer spending and supports over 700,000 jobs. These states are homes to incredible outdoor businesses, including KEEN, Danner, Poler, Columbia, The North Face, Camelbak, Royal Robbins, and Patagonia. Many western states have long been known for their outdoor resources, attracting visitors, residents, and businesses because they offer access to quality outdoor experiences. States that view the outdoors as a resource, and want to invest in them, are increasingly installing offices of outdoor recreation.

So why does this matter for outdoor enthusiasts like you? A few big reasons:

  1. Even though outdoor recreation is a major economic player and a huge reason why people move, travel, and work in the west, it still does not have the political weight of other industries. Outdoor recreation offices are part of a movement to take the outdoor community more seriously.
  2. These offices have already been incredibly effective in Washington, Utah, and Colorado, which have grown their outdoor businesses, improved funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure, increased consumer spending and outdoor participation.
  3. Ultimately, this means better policies, more funding, more focus on the outdoors, and better experiences for people like you. This might mean more public transportation to trailheads, more development of mountain biking or climbing resources, investing in local or state parks, working to attract and build outdoor business in the state, protecting natural resources, and improving trails.

At Outdoor Alliance, we are delighted to see Oregon and California join the effort to invest in outdoor recreation, and we hope to see more states following their lead. Click below to read joint letters to the Oregon and California state legislatures from supporting outdoor advocacy groups and outdoor businesses about these offices.  You can also learn more about offices of outdoor recreation with the Outdoor Industry Association’s white paper.