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Rural communities seeking to benefit from the $800 billion US outdoor recreation industry would get a funding boost from legislation that could end up in the 2023 farm bill.
Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), are throwing their weight behind a measure to authorize $50 million annually through fiscal 2028 for rural areas to upgrade outdoor recreation infrastructure such as boat ramps and trails, as well as help communities plan for the increased tourism and larger workforce the industry is expected to bring.
Outdoor recreation in the US, especially on public lands and waters, boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic, as Americans sought alternatives to indoor activities. The industry supported 4.5 million jobs and contributed about 1.9% to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2021, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Outdoor recreation also contributed about $862 billion in sales and revenue in 2021.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), is the recreation industry’s “big play in the farm bill,” said Jessica Wahl Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, in an interview.
While lawmakers introduced the measure as stand-alone legislation (S. 2604, H.R. 5052), they are eyeing attaching it to broader, bipartisan bills before year’s end. Those potential vehicles include, as well as the farm bill, a public lands or broader outdoor recreation package, or a measure reauthorizing the Economic Development Administration. Turner said she expects the Rural Outdoor Investment Act to attract bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
Supporters of the rural outdoor recreation measure say it’s a public works initiative. Smaller communities could receive more technical assistance, guidance, and other grants through existing federal programs, enabling them to capitalize on the outdoor recreation economy and grow sustainably. Read the full story from Kellie Lunney.
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