2018: Year in Review
There were ups, and there were downs. Thanks to your support, through it all, we continue to move forward. Here’s a month-by-month look back on the work we did with you and on your behalf this past year.
The OIA staff is incredibly grateful for the support of our members. We couldn’t move the needle on important issues facing our industry without the collaboration and hard work of our member companies.
In 2018, outdoorists everywhere showed up in force to support sustainable business, grow recreation access for all and elect policymakers and policies that will ensure the continued growth of the outdoor industry. We couldn’t have this big an impact without your continued support and passionate engagement. Thank you for being a part of our work and our successes in 2018.
Happy Holidays. See you in 2019.
In January 2018, we renewed our focus on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Congress’s favorite can to kick down the road, the LWCF is perpetually suspended in uncertainty. Despite consistent and strong bipartisan support and demonstrated value to America’s public lands and waters, LWCF has failed to receive permanent authorization in its 53-year history. Instead, every two or three years, Congress allows the program’s funding to expire, leaving advocates like OIA and our partners scrambling to get LWCF attached to end-of-year funding packages. On January 1, 2018, we began our countdown to LWCF’s September 30 reauthorization deadline. We kept our eyes and efforts on reauthorization, providing information, education and engagements throughout the year. Our membership and the public responded: 4,000 people visited our LWCF information page and thousands used the hashtags #SaveLWCF and #ICanSeeLWCF on social media.
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#ICanSeeLWCF from the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Land + Water Conservation Fund is less than 100 days from sunsetting unless Congress approves to reauthorize it (hopefully for good!) Starting now, I encourage each of you to email your Reps letting them know that you support the permanent authorization of LWCF and go to the @wildernesssociety website which has an interactive map of LWCF projects by county. ______ Where can you see #LWCF ? Tag #ICanSeeLWCF so we can come together to share the impact LWCF has made on our communities.
In 2018, OIA officially added climate work to our policy agenda. “The outdoor industry is among the first to experience the impacts of climate change. Likewise, we play a role in contributing to it,” Executive Director Amy Roberts explained to the industry in the OR+SS Daily. “If we are going to call our policymakers to task—and we will—we must first hold ourselves accountable.” To that end, we surveyed the outdoor industry to learn where our member companies stand on issues related to global warming, climate change and environmental stewardship. Nearly 200 outdoor companies responded to our climate survey, which has helped us guide our climate strategy and develop member resources for those who want to advocate, those who want to mitigate and those who want to do both.
In an effort to keep our membership, media and other stakeholders up to speed on our ongoing efforts in D.C. and in statehouses across the country, we created a state and local legislation tracker on our website’s Advocacy page.
Citing potential threats to U.S. national security, in March President Trump released official plans to place 25-percent tariffs on imported steel and 10-percent tariffs on imported aluminum. The move sparked concerns from the outdoor industry—especially from companies that produce camp stoves, tent poles, skis and snowboards—and others about higher costs for American manufacturers and the possibility of a trade war.
In March, after five years of work and collaboration with other industry advocacy groups, OIA celebrated the passage by Congress of an omnibus bill that will protect funds specifically appropriated for wildfire mitigation, forest management, recreation programs, maintenance and infrastructure. Previously, those funds were unprotected, which meant they were often diverted to unforeseen projects, such as fighting wildfires. “By stopping the practice of borrowing money, Congress has assured communities and businesses, particularly in the West, that recreation, conservation and other public land funding accounts won’t get siphoned when wildfires strike and that the necessary resources will be there when firefighting season begins in earnest,” said Executive Director Amy Roberts in a statement.
To kick off our annual advocacy event in Washington D.C. in April, we released the first-ever Congressional District Outdoor Recreation Economy reports. The 435 reports dig into each district’s specific resident spending, local outdoor companies and outdoor jobs, proving that recreation is as powerful an economic driver in most local communities around the country as it is at the national level. Armed with those reports, 14 teams representing 33 states hit the Hill for 88 meetings with members of Congress and their staffs.
In OIA’s most significant close-to-home program victory to date, California voters passed a $4.1 billion bond initiative for parks and water. As part of OIA’s campaign of support, we worked with outdoor brands and retailers throughout the state to engage and educate voters. The success ignited our Vote The Outdoors campaign (see below), which officially kicked off in July.
With an eye not only on the 2018 midterm elections but also on our broader policy agenda and work, we developed and, in July, launched our largest advocacy campaign to date: Vote The Outdoors. Although we trickled out a few initiatives and candidate endorsements earlier in the year, we officially introduced the industry to Vote The Outdoors at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market when we unveiled our Congressional Scorecard. The tool helps users measure sitting members of Congress based on their voting records, favorable or unfavorable legislation that they sponsor and their overall support or opposition of outdoor industry policy priorities. The Vote The Outdoors campaign educates elected officials, candidates and voters about the benefits of the outdoor recreation economy and the important issues in their communities. Throughout the remainder of 2018, our team updated the OIA website with tools, resources and news about candidates, bills, ballot initiatives and other issues relevant to the 2018 midterm elections.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report in September that quantified the total value of outdoor goods and services produced by the American outdoor industry. According to the report, those goods and services account for more than 2 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, contributing $734 billion to the U.S. economy. You might be thinking, ‘Wait, I thought our industry’s economic impact was $887 billion.’ Which number is correct? Both.
In September, President Trump signed into law a package of trade legislation collectively known as Miscellaneous Tariff Bills (MTBs) that will reduce or suspend import duties on certain products, including inputs and some finished products, for three years. Thanks to engagement by several OIA member companies, 10 footwear MTBs were among those in the package. Thirty days after President Trump signed the MTBs into law, the tariff relief went into effect, and we immediately began hearing from member companies about the savings they were achieving on landed goods, in real time, at ports of entry. Rich Harper, OIA trade policy advisor, expects this round of MTBs to save outdoor industry companies as much as $40 million a year in tariffs over the next three years. A new round of MTBs will begin in 2019, and Harper is soliciting ideas for outdoor products to be covered.
Just five days after applauding the Trump administration for passing a set of tariff relief bills beneficial to the outdoor industry (see “He Giveth, above”), OIA announced we’d actively oppose the $200 billion in proposed retaliatory tariffs on certain products imported from China. Our announcement came after the administration released the third of three lists of products that could face ratcheting tariffs starting at 10 percent in 2018 then jumping to 25 percent in 2019 (the first two lists, released in April and June, didn’t, for the most part, include any outdoor products). The second list of products included backpacks and sports bags, bikes, headwear, some leather gloves and some camping equipment. “Outdoor products such as bikes, gloves and backpacks already face import tariffs as high as 20 percent, and these additional taxes will only raise costs for outdoor companies and consumers, hamper innovation and job growth and prevent more Americans from getting outdoors,” said Amy Roberts, OIA’s executive director. Since the announcement in September, OIA has worked hard to get outdoor products removed from the list through the official petition process with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
On September 30 of this year, Congress let LWCF expire because neither the House nor the Senate brought reauthorization bills to the floor for votes. With its expiration, important conservation and recreation projects across the country lost access to up to $900 million in annual funding.
For the first time ever, OIA created a Voters Guide to help outdoorists evaluate and compare candidates running for office in 2018. With incredible amplification and adoption by OIA members, the Voters Guide reached 14 million Americans. Five of our six recommended ballot measures passed and 20 of our 23 endorsed candidates were elected in 2018.
Before adjourning for the 2018 autumn recess, the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee both passed clean permanent reauthorization bills, sending the legislation to the full chambers. The Senate bill included full funding for the program. Congress returned to work in mid-November for the lame-duck session. LWCF and several other key recreation and conservation bills that are part of OIA’s policy agenda were attached to a larger public lands funding package. By December, Optimism that LWCF and several other key recreation and conservation bills would pass with larger funding packages began to fade as the extended Lame Duck session of Congress inched toward its final days. In a last-minute, late-night session on December 19, as Congress worked toward a continuing resolution (to keep the government operating until February 8), several members went to the floor demanding that the public lands package of bills—including LWCF reauthorization—be included in the CR. Many of OIA’s strongest Congressional allies including Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Corey Gardner (R-CO) and Steve Daines (R-MT) delivered testimony on the floor, but they were unsuccessful in getting the package included in the continuing resolution. While OIA is pleased that Congress was able to avert a government shutdown, we’re deeply disappointed that a few members of leadership refused to pass key bipartisan public lands funding measures before the end of the session.
In January, we welcomed our third class of the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy. In 2018, OIA partnered with Jansport, the company founded by the program’s namesake, and REI to provide the industry’s premier professional development academy to 35 new young visionaries. More than 90 changemakers have now completed the program.
In February, we said goodbye to Ann Krcik.
In March of 2018, we announced we’d be expanding our Together We Are A Force campaign into an award program to celebrate the collaborative spirit of the outdoor industry and the individuals and companies who are making meaningful change in the areas of policy, sustainability and participation. “OIA’s purpose is to be a convener and leader for the outdoor industry,” said Amy Roberts, OIA executive director. “Part of fulfilling that purpose is shining a light on the truly amazing work our members and partner organizations do. I encourage anyone who has a story of innovation or progress that was made possible through collaboration to submit a nomination.” We received more than 60 nominations. In July, we announced the winners.
Each year, the Outdoor Foundation tracks and reports how many people in the United States participate in outdoor activities to understand whether participation is growing or declining, which demographics are adjusting and which pursuits are the most popular. This year’s report, released in July, revealed overall growth and small upticks in the Hispanic and Asian communities.
For the ninth year in a row, the Outdoor Foundation and Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation produced a special report on fishing to understand motivations, barriers and preferences of existing and potential fishing enthusiasts.
After welcoming a new executive director, Lise Aangeenbrug, in February, the Outdoor Foundation unveiled its new vision for getting more young kids and families hooked on life outdoors. With generous support from VF Foundation, which pledged $1 million, and from multi-year pledges by Patagonia and Thule, the organization announced a new program called Thrive Outside Communities. “In today’s world, there are too many barriers to access quality, safe and close-to-home outdoor experiences with positive, affordable programming by trusted community partners,” said Aangeenbrug. “We plan to change that through our focus on investments in multiple organizations working within communities to get kids and families connected to the outdoors and reap the benefits this provides. This funding will help us make getting outside a healthy habit for all.”
In November, REI commits $1 million to the Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside program, pledging to help build out critical work in select communities across the country focused on how access to the outdoors can help with youth development.
Following our January announcement about our commitment to climate work and on the heels of our first-ever sustainability convergence event that brought innovators, investors, researchers, academics and other stakeholders together to advance our industry’s thought and business leadership, in March we launched a redesigned sustainability section on our website. The new platform provides access to tools and resources created by the OIA Sustainability Working Group (SWG). “With climate change central to OIA’s programming…we know our business leaders want to be sure they are doing all they can to reduce their supply chain impact while also advocating for smart climate solutions,” said OIA’s then-senior director of sustainable business innovation, Beth Jensen.
Using data collected from two broad industry surveys, OIA’s Sustainability Working Group and Market and Consumer Insights teams released our first-ever State of Sustainability in the Outdoor Industry report. More than 1,000 people downloaded the report. At the November Outdoor Retailer, we asked a few attendees about their takeaways from that report.