Advocating on Earth Day: State and Local Policy Updates
On this Earth Day, we on the OIA Government Affairs team are reflecting on notable state-level policies, regulatory changes, and investments that are accelerating important progress on climate, conservation, education, and outdoor access. To celebrate, we want to share some of these significant highlights with you in hopes that it inspires our members and fellow outdoorists to continue advocating for impactful policy on our planet’s behalf.
In late March of 2022, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer celebrated the Building Michigan Together Plan. The $5 billion bipartisan plan is a blueprint for major investments to improve and modernize the state’s infrastructure.
The plan will have major implications throughout the state. We were excited to see that the governor outlined a planned $450 million investment in state parks. Of the total, $250 million will be allocated to state parks, including the development of a new state park in Flint, MI. An additional $200 million will go toward improving and developing local park systems throughout the state. Governor Whitmer’s administration noted that these investments will benefit the state’s outdoor recreation industry and will attract increased tourism to Michigan. Click here to learn more about these important investments.
Late last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration made some exciting announcements to kick off 2022. Alongside California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot, the governor outlined $548.3 million in state grant funding to develop new parks in more than 100 communities throughout California. The press conference was part of a kick-off for the California “Outdoors for All” initiative, which will be led by Katherine Toy, the new and first-ever Deputy Secretary for Access at CNRA. US Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Deb Haaland, joined attendees for the launch of the initiative.
Learn more about the California Outdoors for All initiative and the catalytic investments here.
In March 2022, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Great Maryland Outdoors Act (MD SB541). The bill was written partially in response to increasing visitor use seen throughout the pandemic, as well as growing need for resources to address deferred maintenance throughout the state. The legislation will provide increased funding for the state’s park system, the creation of new parks, and better access to existing parks.
The Great Maryland Outdoors Act will play a major role in, “addressing infrastructure, capacity, and accessibility needs within the Maryland Park Service and State parks,” and “increasing the number of Maryland Park Service full-time employees,” and finally, requiring the state’s Department of Natural Resources to make considerations “relating to the accessibility, inclusivity, safety, and location of State parks.” The law also establishes the Great Maryland Outdoors Fund to provide funding related to outdoor recreation in the state.
Read the final version of the bipartisan bill here.
Washington recently saw the creation of a statewide outdoor school program via a bipartisan bill, Establishing the outdoor school for all program (WA HB 2078). Ten million dollars in funding allocated from the state’s general fund will be used to administer an outdoor learning grant program supporting outdoor educational experiences throughout the state’s public schools. Washington youth in the fifth and sixth grades will be able to attend outdoor school starting as soon as the 2022-2023 academic year.
The program will be administered by the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The office will allocate grants to eligible school districts and outdoor school providers, and will also partner with other relevant state agencies to carry out implementation.
Governor Jay Inslee said, “This is an important opportunity for our kids to experience quality instructional time outdoors, and it may even inspire them to pursue exciting careers in earth science and land management, which will help prepare our state for the challenges of climate change.”
Interested in learning more about our government affairs work on the state and local level? Read more here.