REI believes that business can and should have a voice in public policy. This voice supports the business and the mission of the co-op on behalf of REI's members, both present and future.
In 2010, REI's efforts were focused primarily on issues related to recreational opportunities on public lands and actions were undertaken primarily at the federal level. REI pursued this strategy through a contract lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Outdoor Industry Association trade organization, directly with company staff and in partnership with other interested stakeholders.
The emphasis for 2010 was on President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO); in support of funding of federal public lands and through engagement in miscellaneous rules and regulations. REI also supported trade import bills through efforts led by its industry association.
The bulk of REI's efforts in 2010 were focused on the AGO initiative launched by President Obama in April. The initiative was coordinated by the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture and The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and was overseen by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The initiative's goal was to conduct public outreach in the development of a conservation and recreation agenda for the 21st century. REI's participation included the co-op's president and CEO, Sally Jewell, serving as a keynote speaker for the initiative's launch at the White House. Over the course of the spring and summer, REI backed outreach efforts in support of public listening sessions and also participated in multiple sessions in support of recreation, public land funding and the value of a program called the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Sessions also covered the engagement of youth in the outdoors and ensuring that in the future outdoor public land users are as diverse as American society.
The AGO report and accompanying supplemental Youth Report was to be complete by November 2010 but was delayed until February of 2011. The report (http://americasgreatoutdoors.gov/) provides numerous recommendations for funding, policy and partnership opportunities in the years ahead. At the invitation of President Obama, Sally Jewell participated in the report's rollout.
REI worked for passage of a fully funded LWCF both through direct communications and via our support of our trade association and The Conservation Alliance, an industry group focused on conservation efforts. The effort reached a new level of success with the passage of a funding bill in the House, but a Senate version did not pass before the session's end.
REI worked unsuccessfully on two industry tariff bills on footwear and performance jackets and pants. The bills sought to eliminate extraordinarily high tariffs on product categories without commercial scale domestic production, which creates high product costs without benefit to domestic industry. Neither bill advanced from their respective houses. The bills were known as the Affordable Footwear Act and the US OUTDOOR Act.
Other efforts that REI worked on but that failed to advance included support of a bill to create a national youth conservation corps and a bill to encourage the development of state strategies for engaging youth in the outdoors. REI executives also participated in a regional meeting hosted by the U.S. Forest Service to represent recreation users and recreation-based business as key stakeholders in the development of forest management plans. A final rule is expected in 2011.
REI along with the Sierra Club, YMCA of the USA, The National Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League, the Children and Nature Network, the Outdoor Foundation and the National Parks and Recreation Association, joined efforts through a coalition called the Outdoor Alliance for Kids (OAK) to seek ways to bring attention and change to the challenge of connecting today's young people to the outdoors and nature. The year was a formative one in which efforts were made to establish OAK and start work with agencies and decision makers to bring attention and action to the issue. This included working with the First Lady's office to bring an outdoor extension to her Let's Move campaign. It also included the support of the Moving Outdoors in Nature Act that encourages state strategies to connect youth to nature.
REI remains committed to bringing recreation, conservation and business views to Washington, D.C. With the current polarized political mood in the Capital and the great concerns regarding the economy and governmental debt, REI needs to be thoughtful as to its effective engagement. The company views the AGO report and its recommendations as strong places to start. Additionally, the LWCF and its stateside program are seen as critical to funding close-to-home recreation needs and this program will continue to be a focus of our advocacy efforts.
Clearly, with the increasing number of issues facing land managers, attention is focusing on ensuring state and federal recreational opportunities and infrastructure are protected. The outdoor industry and companies such as REI can bring a strong voice and willingness to engage to these critical issues.
REI is working as part of OAK to build the organization's reach, effectiveness and agenda on behalf of engaging young people in the outdoors. REI is also engaging as needed to ensure recreation is considered key to land management rules and regulations. This includes providing our comments and being involved in broad issues as the Forest Service Planning Rule and more specific regulations such as the limitations placed on youth organizations and their ability to provide services and programs on forest service lands.
REI will continue to monitor and act on business and trade issues that affect the co-op and our ability to deliver on our mission and business success.
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