OIA in D.C.: Notes From the Hill—August Is Your Time to Lobby

Every year, Congress takes a summer recess in August. But that doesn’t mean they’re not working. They’re back in their home districts meeting with the people who put and keep them in office. Use this time to tell your representatives what it will take to earn your vote in the next election.

I’d like to say that things here inside the Beltway are quiet in August because Congress isn’t in session all month, but advocacy is a year round activity at OIA.  We’ve spent the summer continuing to defend the industry from punitive tariffs on outdoor gear and products, promoting legislative efforts to properly fund our national parks and pressing ahead with efforts to give more Americans access to green spaces.

August is also the best time for you, our outdoor advocates, to connect with your federal elected officials on your home turf, and theirs and educate them on the issues that impact the outdoor recreation economy the most. When Congress is in session, members are focused on the business of governing, writing and voting on legislation here in Washington, D.C. But during the August recess, they’re focused on their representative duties, meeting with constituents at home to learn about the issues that are important to the people and businesses in their districts and states. Take advantage of your member of Congress’ close proximity by engaging them in any of the following ways:

  • Invite your member of Congress to visit your business to learn about what you do, the jobs your company provides and the ways your business supports the district and state’s economy. Simply reach out to the local congressional office with an invitation to tour your business, meet employees and discuss some key issues.  You can expect that a member will stay for about 30 minutes to an hour.  Seeing the work you do in person is the best way for them to understand how federal policy impacts the companies and employees that make up the outdoor industry in their state or district.
  • Attend a town-hall or other “open door” event to interact with your member of Congress. Elected leaders will organize public forums where constituents can come to discuss their issues. Some of these forums may be crowded, but many are not. You can expect to get an update from the member of Congress on a variety of issues and have an opportunity to ask questions on issue of importance to you and your business.  Expect these town halls to last one to two hours, depending upon the availability of the member. This is a great way to introduce yourself and your company if you have never interacted with your elected representative before.
  • Schedule a meeting with your member of Congress in the local office. A formal meeting is a great opportunity to get more personal time and delve deeper into key policy issues that directly impact your company and the broader outdoor recreation economy.
  • Have a company event already planned? Invite your member of Congress, too. If you are already hosting a summer company barbecue or other company event like a store opening, invite your member of Congress, too. You can call the district office to ask if the representative is available at that specific date and time. Some members of Congress may want to say a few words, others are just happy to be out in the district visiting with constituents.

No matter how you engage with your elected official locally, use the time to educate them on the federal policy that connects most directly to your business priorities and the outdoor industry. If you are worried that the punitive tariffs on products imported from China will hurt your ability to create new jobs and grow your business, urge your elected leaders to stand up for you, and call for an end to the trade war.  Inform your member of Congress that more federal resources are needed to protect, maintain and access our public lands so your customers have the ability to easily get outdoors. Urge them to support the Restore Our Parks Act, the SOAR Act and the CORE Act and to fully fund LWCF.  Climate change is having a direct impact on the bottom line for many outdoor businesses, call on your elected official to work on bipartisan solutions to tackle this existential challenge.  Finally, make sure members of Congress understand the healing power of the outdoors and encourage them to cosponsor the Accelerating Veterans’ Recovery Outdoors Act so that our nation’s veterans can more easily get the treatment in the outdoors they need to recover.

And remember that policy also happens at the state and the local level, each influences the other. If you’re not already involved in a business coalition in your state, consider joining or creating one. Most states have them. California, for example, has the California Outdoor Recreation Partnership, which has been instrumental in creating and advocating for AB1111, a bill that would create a state office of outdoor recreation. In fact, OIA and many of our members joined CORP in Sacramento on August 19 for a lobbying day to help educate members of the state legislature about the importance and value of the outdoor recreation economy in California. If you didn’t make it don’t worry, you can communicate your support for AB1111 through our state policy action center.

We live in a representative democracy which means your elected officials represent you but you have to be an active advocate on your own behalf. Congressional recesses (the week each month that members return to their home offices) are a perfect time to put your voice into action. We are here to provide you the guidance and resources you need to build strong relationships with your elected leaders.  Feel free to email or call me (202-891-3700) with any questions. And don’t get discouraged if you are unable to connect with your member of Congress right away, there is always the next congressional recess in October, just keep trying.

Happy Trails.