OIA Notes from the Hill: June 2021

By Rich Harper June 24, 2021

Rich Harper Speaking at Outdoor Retailer

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen more Americans than ever benefit from the outdoors and enjoy the physical and mental health benefits that come from outdoor recreation. I have been heartened to see so many people discover the outdoors for the first time and make getting outside a regular part of their lives. It is also encouraging to see so many outdoor companies stepping up their advocacy in support of the outdoors, taking advantage of virtual meetings with members and Congress and the administration, publishing op-eds and signing letters to ensure that we’re able to protect and preserve these open spaces for new and long-time outdoorists and for future generations to come.

As vaccinations increase, businesses re-open and we return to a sense of normalcy, we look ahead to Outdoor Retailer Summer show in Denver and “The Summit” in Washington, D.C., in October, when we can gather in person to collaborate, build grassroots support and make our case to our elected representatives that our businesses thrive when the outdoors thrive. In the meantime, our advocacy work continues through new technologies as the administration pushes ahead with its ambitious infrastructure proposal: the American Jobs Plan.

Leadership Roundtable Meetings

In April, OIA convened another round of meetings with outdoor executives and key members of Congress and the administration on our climate, recreation and public lands policy agenda. With Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR), ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, and Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, we stressed our commitment to build bipartisan support for robust efforts to combat climate change and ensure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to help develop and implement the “30×30” initiative. Former representative Cedric Richmond, senior advisor to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, welcomed the industry’s support for 30×30 and the American Jobs Plan, and we discussed how the outdoor industry and the administration can work together to get both initiatives across the finish line.

After organizing a Policy Forum for members of the State Outdoor Business Alliance Network with Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) in March, we followed up with a meeting of Minnesota outdoor executives in May in support of her legislation to protect the Boundary Waters, highlighting the importance of the business voice in securing this precious natural resource for generations to come. We will organize additional meetings for groups of outdoor businesses with their elected representatives to highlight our policy agenda and identify opportunities to collaborate, on a recurring basis, on legislation and other initiatives on behalf of the outdoors.

In these meetings, I was reminded once again of a distinct advantage outdoor companies have in Washington, D.C.: most members of Congress and the administration love the outdoors, have a favorite outdoor activity and are well aware of OIA members’ products. It’s an opportunity to begin a conversation and identify areas where we can work together to support the outdoor recreation economy.

Conservation/Public Lands

OIA has continued to highlight its support for two of the Biden administration’s key initiatives. In May, we celebrated the release of “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” the administration’s blueprint on how to implement the 30×30 initiative. Twelve OIA members signed a letter to President Biden in support of his “American Jobs Plan,” stressing the importance of the climate provisions to the outdoor recreation economy. We were also proud to support Brenda Mallory to be chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which will play a critical role in the administration’s energy, environment and infrastructure efforts.

OIA continues to make progress on its policy agenda with Congress. We endorsed the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation (SOAR) Act, introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rep. Neguse, to simplify the permitting process for outdoor guides, outfitters and others and legislation introduced by Rep. Neguse (D-CO) to provide $10 billion to create a Civilian Climate Corps, a key part of the president’s American Jobs Plan.

I was proud to record a wide-ranging conversation with Rep. Neguse, one of our congressional champions and OIA’s representative from Boulder, Colo., on how the industry can help enact his policy agenda for the outdoors, including his Civilian Climate Corps legislation, as well as the following:

  • The Parks Jobs and Equity Act to provide $500 million for urban parks
  • The CORE Act, legislation to protect 400,000 acres of Colorado wilderness

International Trade

On June 8, the Senate acted on three of OIA’s trade priorities: renewing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), passing a package of miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs) and creating a new exclusion process for the China 301 tariffs. A comprehensive bill on U.S. policy toward China, the “Endless Frontier Act” will do the following:

  • Renew GSP for six years until January 1, 2027, and refund any duties paid since January 1, 2021
  • Pass a package of MTBs, including eight footwear MTBs submitted by OIA, and authorize two new rounds of MTBs in 2022 and 2025
  • Create a new process to exclude certain products from the China 301 punitive tariffs

The legislation now moves to the House for consideration, and it is possible these provisions could still be modified or attached to another moving legislative vehicle. Following up on a March 2021 letter, OIA wrote to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee urging them to include another OIA priority in this trade package: a provision to add certain outdoor footwear products – like hiking boots, hiking shoes and trail running shoes – to the GSP program. We will continue to keep OIA members informed on the progress of this legislation.

In May, we hosted a Washington Town Hall on Trade for Outdoor Companies with our longtime outside trade consultants from Sorini Samet & Associates, the first in a series of quarterly events to provide OIA members the opportunity to ask any questions on U.S. federal trade policy and global supply chain management.

State and Local

As some state legislative sessions came to a close, OIA continued to advocate for our priorities at the state level, from supporting a 10-year, $30 million reauthorization for Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program to urging California to pass legislation on  projects that tackle climate change and address issues related to equity in and access to the outdoors. OIA and the Outdoor Foundation participated in California Outdoor Recreation Partnership’s (CORP) 4th annual Sacramento Summit in support of outdoor legislation before the state legislature. We would like to thank OIA members who wrote their Colorado legislators in support of legislation to create a Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program that will connect more Colorado kids and their families to the outdoors. The Colorado legislature has passed this legislation, and it was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis (D-CO).

We also celebrated the release of a report prepared by the State Outdoor Business Alliance Network (SOBAN) on the future of the outdoor recreation economy and the critical investments needed for its continued success.

Upcoming Events: Outdoor Retailer

We’re excited to return to Denver for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show, August 10-12! This event will feature a mix of virtual and in-person educational presentations, including the following:

  • Tuesday, July 12 (virtual): Climate Action: Ambition, Collaboration and Practical Steps to Guide Our Industry’s Path to Climate Positive
  • Tuesday, July 20 (virtual): Building an Outdoors for All: How Outdoor Youth Programming Is Helping Address Equity Barriers in Communities Across the Country
  • Tuesday, July 27 (virtual): Implementing 30×30: The Essential Partnership of State and Local Stakeholders
  • Tuesday, August 3 (virtual): A Historic Opportunity on Climate and How Outdoor Companies Can Help
  • Tuesday, August 10 (live on the show floor): Confronting Threats to the Outdoors: Two Voices from Colorado and Capitol Hill
  • Wednesday, August 11 (live on the show floor): International Trade Panel Discussion (Topic: TBD)

Upcoming Events: The Summit

Save the Date!

This is NOT our traditional Capitol Summit. We will bring our industry leaders and partners together to tackle and advocate for the biggest issues facing our industry and the outdoors around climate, conservation and creating an equitable and inclusive outdoors.

It’s not Capitol Summit. It’s The Summit.

The pandemic has fueled an increase in outdoor participation and interest in issues affecting the outdoors. Consumers now view CEOs and the business community as the primary drivers for addressing and solving today’s biggest global challenges.

The Summit is where we will talk about the most important issues in our industry with the leaders who can make the most impactful changes. We plan to take the conversation outdoors and encourage everyone to see that the outdoors can be just outside your front door.

Join us in D.C. for in-person thought leadership and important conversations with industry peers and policymakers.

The Summit, October 5-7, 2021

  • Executive thought leadership and discussions
  • Advocating for the outdoors and outdoor industry
  • Time outside connecting with partners

 

We’re half-way through 2021, and we have so much more to accomplish by the end of the year on behalf of the outdoors and the outdoor recreation economy. Please contact me to learn more about how you and your company can get involved.

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