July 17, 2020
A month ago, hopes of outdoors enthusiasts all across the country were raised when the Senate passed its version of the Great American Outdoors Act.
When the Senate showed significant bipartisan support for GAOA back in mid-June, the thought was a final vote by the House of Representatives was not far off.
But politics in Washington has a way of slowing anything down, often turning what looks to be a sure bet into a hazardous guess at best.
With that in mind, Petersen’s Hunting editor David Draper noted earlier this week that the GAOA should—the key word being should—go up for a vote in the House sometime during the next week.
Interested in doing what you can to help spur on your Congressional Representative to vote “yes” and help secure the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act?
Then take a few moments today to voice your concerns. One way of doing that is by going to the House website for a link to your representative, then pass along encouragement for a “yes” vote on GAOA.
Another way is to visit the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s website, where you can just fill in a few blanks, look the letter over, and hit “Send.”
With so much riding on the outcome of this vote, seemingly everyone in the outdoors industry is hopeful that this gets passed quickly.
Some proof can be seen in a July 13, 2020 letter from the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, when a group of 120+ outdoor business leaders sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. With companies ranging from Fortune 500 entities to local small businesses, the letter urged quick passage of the landmark legislation.
With the list of signees ranging from Bass Pro Shops to Cabela’s to Polaris to Pure Fishing to Yamaha, the letter urges Congressional leaders to vote “yes” on this very important piece of legislation.
“Our entire industry continues to spearhead support for GAOA — from skiers to snowmobilers, hunters to hikers, campers to RVers and climbers to motorcyclists,” said Jessica (Wahl) Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, in a news release.
“Businesses have been making calls, running sign-on campaigns and sending letters. This unity in our business community showcases the incredible things we can accomplish when we work together. The House of Representatives has the opportunity to do something that truly outlasts their time in office and that will benefit the nation for decades to come by passing this once-in-a-generation legislation.”
The letter opens by noting the optimism that last month’s Senate vote has brought to the industry and outdoors enthusiasts across the country.
“The outdoor recreation industry is encouraged by the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the Senate and urges clean passage of this landmark legislation through the House as soon as possible,” stated the letter. “As outdoor recreation business leaders, we know investments in recreation access and infrastructure are vital to the outdoor recreation industry and economies across the country.”
As with many other things in the U.S. right now, the financial stakes are high in this age of the coronavirus.
“Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the outdoor recreation industry contributed $778 billion in economic output, accounted for 2.2 percent of United States Gross Domestic Product, supported 5.2 million jobs and was growing faster than the economy as a whole in every indicator,” stated the ORR letter.
But then came the virus outbreak, the quarantined lockdowns in states and municipalities all across the country, and the economic fallout that has been the result.
“Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns necessary to slow its progression, America’s outdoor recreation economy was hindered when we needed the outdoors more than ever,” stated the ORR letter. “Outdoor Recreation Roundtable’s May survey of the sector shows that 88 percent of outdoor businesses have had to lay off or furlough employees, and 94 percent are seeing decreased revenue. However, we know there is a bright future for outdoor recreation ahead, as several sectors of the industry are already experiencing rapidly increasing demand.”
What will the passage of the GAOA actually do? According to information on the bill provided earlier this year by the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, the GAOA will provide some $9.5 billion over five years to help address maintenance backlog issues currently existing on federally owned public lands and waters.
It will also set aside roughly $3 billion for restoration of infrastructure on lands and waters that are important to American’s sportsmen and sportswomen. In addition, some $900 million would be allocated annually to provide permanently dedicated funding to the vitally important Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). That latter money will go to help secure additional public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other outdoor related activities on public lands across America, activities that can bring financial help to economically troubled communities.
And that’s why the ORR letter this week respectfully asks the House of Representatives to pass the GAOA as quickly as possible.
“These outdoor businesses are the backbone of our industry and range from specialty retailers, apparel, gear and vehicle manufacturers, outfitters and guides to campground and marina operators,” stated the letter. “They are often foundational to a community’s economy. With rising unemployment and Americans eager to experience the outdoors, investment in our industry’s core infrastructure – public lands and waters – will allow our businesses to get back to what we do best: stimulate local economies, put people back to work, and allow Americans to benefit from time spent outside.”
In the ongoing pandemic and its financial assault on America’s economy, time is of the essence according to the authors of the ORR letter.
“Passing GAOA now would stimulate the outdoor recreation industry made up of thousands of businesses that support communities in all 50 states, support rural economies, create jobs to carry out essential work, and provide opportunities for millions of Americans to recreate on our public lands and waters for generations to come,” the letter stated. “We know this vital legislation is slated for a vote later this month and we urge you to move as quickly as possible to get this legislation across the finish line. Your support of GAOA is a vote for American jobs and health, community resiliency and the outdoor recreation economy. Thank you for your leadership.”
The bottom line is that politics moves at its own pace, especially in a time of national crisis. But by taking a few moments out of your schedule today, you can help urge the passage of one of the more important pieces of outdoors legislation to come along in many, many years.