7 Takeaways From Summit '16

If a little advocacy is good, a lot is better. And other truths confirmed or revealed after a week pounding pavement in the nation's capital.

By Alex Boian May 3, 2016

We’re a week removed from what many staff and member attendees agree was our most impactful Capitol Summit to date, an especially noteworthy observation given the bitter and divisive tone that has dominated the political landscape for the past year.

In partnership with teams from The Conservation Alliance and Outdoor Alliance, OIA delivered a loud and clear message to legislators in Washington. The consensus, not only among our ranks but from those within the federal government including EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Congressman Don Beyer and Senator Ron Wyden, is that the outdoor industry “has arrived.”

According to OIA’s Executive Director Amy Roberts: “We found our strength in numbers during the summit—with the combined presence of OIA, The Conservation Alliance and Outdoor Alliance and through the government’s long overdue and welcome announcement that the recreation economy is going to be formally included as a recognized part of our nation’s GPD.”

The announcement, made by Sally Jewell the week before our summit, that the Department of the Interior will launch a pilot program to measure the impact of the outdoor sector on the nation’s GDP, was an incredible win for our industry and provided momentum for our teams as we headed into Congressional offices last week.

Our teams wore out their shoe leather traversing the Hill to deliver our “asks” to our elected officials. We left it all on the table, and here’s what we came away with:

The ability to advocate nationally and locally is essential to the health of our industry.
The things that have enabled the growth and success of our industry—open spaces, progressive trade policy, healthy community, economy and people are threatened on a daily basis. We are valued when we present an educated and active voice.

Consistency wins.
While the essence of what we advocate for year after year doesn’t shift much, repeatedly and consistently getting our issues in front of policymakers is what inspires action. Staffers and members in many of last week’s meetings could recall specific conversations from the previous year and were familiar with the issues that have dominated our industry’s headlines over the past several months. The steady drumbeat of our advocacy message is powerful.

Face time matters.
If it weren’t for the tireless efforts of our government affairs team, especially D.C.-based policy managers Jess Wahl and Rich Harper, and OIA member engagement via letter-writing and petition-signing throughout the year, the recent Centennial Act and TPP legislation wouldn’t have happened. But showing up on our representatives’ doorsteps is crucial and appreciated and is leading to reciprocal relationships for the first time. They want to hear not only from our lobbyists but from our businesspeople directly. Our conversations now take place directly with our policymakers and their key, senior staffers. They want to hear from our members directly, and they now reach out to us for guidance as much as we reach out to them. Many Congressional representatives and staffers followed up with our members directly.

Progress is possible no matter the condition of the machine.
We have made significant progress—with key legislation and policy in place—as a result of our advocacy, despite the often deadlocked playing field.

Outdoor recreation is a bipartisan issue.
Our policy requests related to recreation, in particular, present a rare bipartisan opportunity for members of Congress to work across party lines even when everything else in Washington seems stuck in stalemate. In a polar time and during a difficult election year, we’re one of a few industries that is getting things done.

We cannot rest on our laurels.
Though it’s clear that our message is being heard, now we must turn up the volume. We do that by broadening the geographic representation we bring to Washington while simultaneously diving deeper into our state legislatures for support.

We do it for the kids.
As outdoorists we all know that outdoor experiences become integral to our lives at a young age. We advocate, if for no other reason, to ensure the health and well-being of generations to come.