Six Reasons the 2018 Farm Bill is A Big Win for Outdoorists

A breakdown of key conservation opportunities wrapped into the $867 billion bipartisan funding package.

December 13, 2018

We spend a lot of time talking about, writing about and advocating for public land access and stewardship. After all, we the people own those public lands, and we the outdoor industry know that public lands are the backbone of our recreation economy. But there are other bones that support the rec economy, including the rarely talked about but critically important private lands.

Much of the $887 billion in outdoor recreation consumer spending happens in rural economies that comprise a patchwork of public and private land. And that’s why this week’s passage of the Farm Bill—which contains billions of dollars in annual spending for conservation on both public and private land—is an important win for outdooirsts. In fact, there are more conservation dollars in the Farm Bill—which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—than in the entire Interior Department budget, and it only comes around once every five years. So, yeah, it’s a big deal.

Outdoorists should applaud the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, because:

1. It allows the USDA to pay private land owners who work with natural resource agencies and partners to conserve critical land, water and habitat. It protects those lands and waters from development or exploitation and it helps private agricultural land owners protect their lands from degradation or erosion that could make them unhealthy, unproductive or both.

2. It financially rewards private land owners who allow public access to recreation assets, such as hunting and fishing.

3. It reduces the risk of wildfire through several programs and initiatives and, by extension, also protects water sources. In addition, the bill doubles funding for forest restoration and designates 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest as Wilderness, the highest level of protection for public lands.

4. It encourages the Forest Service to prioritize recreation infrastructure and access when designing above-mentioned forest restoration projects.

5. It provides economic development grants, which ensure economic security to rural communities. Grants provide everything from broadband service to housing and community facilities and infrastructure. This is especially valuable to those recreation gateway communities, as it helps them attract and accommodate outdoorists.

6. It directs the Agriculture Department to identify and prioritize outdoor recreation-related projects when awarding the above-mentioned rural economic development grants. In other words, it underscores the value of the recreation economy to securing economic security in rural communities.

OIA worked collaboratively with our partners on drafting the legislation and was the primary driving force between the last two provisions listed above. Hear more about the last-minute conservation and recreation funding legislation we’re working to get across the finish line before the end of the 2018 in this special Lame Duck episode of Audio Outdoorist.