By Rich Harper, Director of Government Affairs
At the close of last year, OIA was thrilled to see increased investments in the omnibus spending bill to advance implementation funding for the landmark Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), as well as increased funding for national parks and key climate change initiatives. As we look ahead to 2023, we remain focused on several key priorities, including the historic America’s Outdoor Recreation Act.
Celebrating Federal Funding for National Parks and Climate Change Initiatives
The $3.5 billion in funding for the National Park Service and $1.9 billion secured for GAOA provisions in the 2022 omnibus bill will both address deferred maintenance projects and staffing needs. These funds will boost local economies, support thousands of jobs, and protect and improve our national parks, public lands, and waterways.
Additionally, a $260 million increase over fiscal year 2022 levels for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will go a long way to further encourage renewable energy adoption. In coordination with the Growing Climate Solutions Act, this investment will advance clean energy initiatives and help facilitate our nation’s ongoing transition to a clean energy economy.
Convening OIA Recreation and Trade Advisory Councils
On December 6, the OIA government affairs team and OIA members from NEMO Equipment, Snow Peak, REI, W.L. Gore, and Vista Outdoor Inc. convened in Washington, D.C., to advocate for important trade and recreation policies with elected officials and government agencies. OIA is working to advocate for solutions to outstanding issues and to seize the opportunity to explore new possibilities for legislation at the federal level that will have big impacts nationwide in 2023.
OIA Recreation Advisory Council (RAC) Chair Theresa McKenney (NEMO) and Vice Chair Matt Liddle (Snow Peak) joined Marc Berejka (REI) and the OIA GA team for meetings at the Department of the Interior and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with additional senate offices on Capitol Hill, including Senator Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) office.
OIA Trade Advisory Council (TAC) Vice Chair Brent Merriam (NEMO), Fred Ferguson (Vista Outdoor Inc.), and Raphy Goodstein (W.L. Gore) joined the OIA GA team to meet with the United States Trade Representative, several senate and house offices in key states, the Senate Finance Committee, and the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.
Urging Congress to Support the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
OIA, along with the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife, a coalition of diverse organizations, businesses, professional societies, state fish and wildlife agencies, and tribal nations, wrote to senior members of Congress urging them to support the passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 2773/S. 2372) as a part of the funding package last year.
This Act would immediately address the biodiversity crisis by helping to recover and conserve species at risk by investing $1.3 billion annually for states and territories and $97.5 million for tribal nations for on-the-ground conservation projects. This legislation would be the only federal conservation program that provides sustained funding to tribal nations and state fish and wildlife agencies for the proactive conservation of at-risk species.
While this bill was not included in the omnibus spending bill, we look forward to supporting its enactment in the new Congress.
Looking Ahead to 2023
Along with advocating for America’s Outdoor Recreation Act – which will achieve our goals of cutting red tape, extending recreational seasons, improving permitting systems, and supporting recreational opportunities in underserved communities – we will continue to advocate for the “Restoring America the Beautiful” initiative to conserve 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 and look for ways to advance our priorities in the upcoming Farm Bill.
Our work doesn’t stop there, as tariff reform is sorely required, along with the need to relieve outdoor businesses of the disproportionately high and unnecessary import taxes that stifle innovation, suppress U.S. jobs, and artificially inflate retail prices on outdoor products, which are always top of mind. As one of its first acts, the new Congress should pass a long-term extension of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and a package of miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs), establish a new exclusion process for products affected by the China 301 tariffs, and provide a level playing field for companies utilizing U.S. Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) for de minimus shipments.
Finally, climate change is a clear and present danger to outdoor businesses, our precious natural resources, and not to mention the hundreds of communities and millions of families that rely on our industry for their livelihoods. To that end, we will push for bold action that prioritizes close-to-home access, green infrastructure in nature-starved areas, climate, conservation, and natural climate solutions policies at the federal and state levels.
We will continue to work tirelessly with policymakers to protect and foster America’s outdoors tradition and our far-reaching $862 billion and growing community of 4.5 million employees and their families.