At the co-op, we believe the outdoors is a place to find common ground with people from all backgrounds and political affiliations. When it comes to politics, REI maintains a strongly nonpartisan stance. At the same time, we do support an active electorate.
The purpose of the Representing the Outdoors series is to educate our readers about their elected officials and the outdoor issues that matter to them. To produce the series, we asked policymakers the same set of nine questions about the outdoors. These are their responses. If there is a Congressperson who advocates for the outdoors that you’d like to see interviewed here, please let us know in the comments below.
The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Co-op Journal or REI. To view Senator Manchin’s voting record, please click here.
What’s one of your most memorable outdoor experiences, and why?
Our family trout-fishing trips in the mountains of West Virginia. It’s my favorite way to spend time with my wife, children and grandchildren while also getting to enjoy our beautiful home state.
What’s your favorite piece of outdoor gear and what do you love about it?
The chest waders I wear when I go fishing. They make it possible for me to fish in all sorts of weather conditions.
What are the outdoor places in your state or district that people should visit?
Our wild and wonderful West Virginia is an outdoor lover’s playground. New River Gorge National River, and Canaan Valley, Seneca Rocks and the Dolly Sods Wilderness within the Monongahela National Forest, offer rafting, fishing, camping, hiking, hunting and other watersports.
What are the most pressing conservation and stewardship issues our country currently faces?
Permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and addressing the maintenance backlog in our national parks are both pressing issues for our country. I have two pieces of legislation, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act and the Restore Our Parks Act, both of which would address these issues to protect our public lands for generations to come.
What role can the outdoors play in promoting health and well-being among U.S. citizens?
Time outside is beneficial for every demographic. For example, studies show time outside reduces post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in our veterans and has been shown to promote lifelong learning and curiosity in children.
Why is access to public lands, parks and waters important to you?
Growing up in West Virginia, my best memories are hunting, fishing and exploring with my dad and grandfather. I know many of my fellow West Virginians and Americans across the country share that sentiment. We take an enormous amount of pride in the playground that is the wild and wonderful West Virginia. Protecting these lands and ensuring access is important because it’s a part of our way of life.
What impact does the outdoor recreation economy stand to make nationwide?
A 2019 report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that our recreation economy is growing at double the pace of our national GDP. It is among the fastest-growing industries in the country. This has been especially impactful in rural communities across the country [in a positive way].
What’s a policy solution for the outdoors you’re working on?
My bill, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Designation Act, will redesignate the New River Gorge National River as a park and preserve. This will recognize the significance of the New River and everything it offers visitors. It will increase tourism and increase economic activity in southern West Virginia.