Five States Join Formal Commitment to Grow Outdoor Recreation

Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia have joined the eight founding states of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Confluence Accords.

Amid growing awareness that outdoor recreation is a major driver of social and economic value, five states Thursday committed to a set of guiding outdoor principles aimed at growing the nation’s economy, joining the eight states that created the agreement in 2018.  

Outdoor leaders from Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia signed the commitment—called the Outdoor Recreation Industry Confluence Accords—this morning at the Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit, a three-day gathering that encourages recreation discussion among industry, government, nonprofit and other stakeholders. 

The accords are meant to promote the outdoor industry and the benefits it provides to states. They were first signed in July 2018 by a bipartisan group of outdoor recreation directors from Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. 

The joining states agree to 12 principles under the four pillars of stewardship and conservation; education and workforce training; economic development; and public health, according to a news release by the National Governors Association (NGA), a nonprofit that offers public policy guidance to state governors. NGA supports the states that sign the accords, though it doesn’t influence the principles themselves.

This news comes just weeks after New Hampshire announced it would be joining 15 states in creating a state office dedicated to promoting the growing outdoor recreation economy. 

Nationwide, the outdoor industry accounted for $427 billion of GDP in 2017. The industry grew faster than the overall U.S. economy that year and accounted for 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP, according to a September report by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

David Weinstein, state and local policy director for the Outdoor Industry Association, said the accords are significant because they allow states to underscore the importance of outdoor recreation. Weinstein said that in the past several decades, federal spending on the outdoor industry has dropped from 2 percent of the national discretionary budget to 1 percent. The accords can help states partner and identify sources of funding, said Sue Gander, director of energy, infrastructure and environment at NGA. 

Individuals in states that have committed to the accords could see any number of benefits, including more money to invest in things like trails and university partnerships that promote outdoor recreation education. 

“The statement that these states are making is that ‘yes, we recognize the significance [of the outdoor industry] from Maine all the way to Oregon. Outdoor recreation is a unifying factor. It’s apolitical, and it does a lot of good for the country,” Weinstein said.  

Marc Berejka, REI’s director of government and community affairs, said the movement of states recognizing the value of the outdoors—and its influence on health, community, education, environment and economy—is gaining steam.

“In this country, when you have 13 states agreeing to a shared vision of the role of nature in our lives, you’re on to something potentially revolutionary.”

Editor’s note: REI is a founding sponsor of the NGA’s Outdoor Recreation Learning Network.  The co-op supported meetings among those who drafted the Confluence Accords and regularly sponsors state-level gatherings among outdoor recreation stakeholders, like the Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit. 

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