State and Local Policy Dispatch: Q4 2022

October 21, 2022

We blinked, and suddenly we are heading full speed toward midterms! The next quarter promises to be both exciting and impactful as we gear up for next year. For now, I am working together with OIA members, coalition partners, and other outdoor ecosystem stakeholders to process what 2022 has brought us and to think through how we can powerfully leverage our wins into a productive end of the year. 

Important policy wins (some of which are highlighted below) at the state and federal levels around climate, outdoor recreation, outdoor access, and sustainability promise a productive 2023. We must keep up the momentum. This includes finalizing policy priorities for next year’s sessions, strategizing about how to engage new governors who are voted into office in the midterms, how to develop new state legislative allies, and how to continue communicating the incredible value and potential of the outdoor recreation economy at the local and state levels. 

So, as we get into shorter days and start obsessing over snow forecasts, I hope to keep you all updated on those important topics being talked about at the state level. One thing is for sure: The outdoors needs your voice and your vote, so please check your voter registration and make it a point to participate in next month’s elections. 

Keep in touch, 

 

Rebecca Gillis 

State & Local Government Affairs Manager

 

 

Policy Highlights

Below are some recent notable policy highlights that impact the outdoors and outdoorists from across the United States. Please reach out if you’d like to discuss these further or to hear a more thorough legislative rundown in states of interest.    

Inflation Reduction Act  

I am still celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Much of the bill includes resources which will have major impacts at the state and local levels. Want to learn a bit more? See here for a few IRA resources that the OIA government affairs team has developed for our members to learn about and promote the value of the IRA. (P.S. – In case you missed it, our director of government relations attended a celebration of the act’s passage at the White House!) 

California Equitable Outdoor Access Act 

California OIA members and recreationists have something to celebrate as the Equitable Outdoor Access Act, CA AB30, was recently signed into law by Governor Newsom (D). The bill codifies the state’s “commitment to ensuring all Californians can benefit from and have meaningful and sustainable access to the state’s rich cultural and natural resources.” CA AB30 complements the Outdoors for All Initiative and the state’s 30×30 efforts. According to the bill analysis, by adopting AB30, California would become the first state to declare equitable access to nature for all Californians, setting an important example for the rest of the nation that our most vulnerable communities can benefit equitably in our efforts to protect nature.” Further, this policy will help advance, promote, and support the state’s climate and biodiversity goals. Learn more here.   

Minnesota Children’s Bill of Rights is Established 

In August, Minnesota Governor Walz (D), Lieutenant Governor Flanagan, and many of the state’s other officials, community-based organizations, and outdoor advocacy groups came together to celebrate the signing of the state’s Children’s Bill of Rights, which delineates 15 fundamental rights for youth in the state. This public-private partnership will allow organizations to commit to protecting, growing, and/or strengthening one or more of the outlined rights for youth throughout Minnesota. State agencies are also committing resources to ensuring they are supporting the tenets. A few of my favorites: “All Minnesota’s children have a right to: explore and play outdoors in a safe, welcoming, and culturally affirming place; and, to participate in outdoor sports and recreational activities.” Read about the rights here! 

Massachusetts Climate Bill 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed a major climate bill into law this summer. The legislation contained many notable provisions pertaining to fossil fuels, transportation, and renewable energy. Many called this a “landmark bill.” Titled, “An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind,” the now-chaptered law contains the following provisions: establishes a Charging Infrastructure Deployment Fund; requires a plan for the equitable deployment of electric vehicle chargers; incentivizes new grid modernization plans; mandates that all vehicles sold in the state must be zero-emission by 2035; and, expands solar and offshore wind development through regulatory adjustments. The legislation is considered sweeping, but many stakeholders in the state wish it went further in addressing environmental justice. All in all, the Act is worth celebrating.  

PFAS 

As many readers may know, there are numerous notable pieces of PFAS-focused legislation that were either introduced or passed this year. The bill that got the most attention, California AB 1817, was recently signed into law by Governor Newsom. You can learn more about the specifics of the bill here, as explained by our friends at the California Outdoor Recreation Partnership (CORP). OIA will also be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, Oct. 25 that will provide our members with guidance about key legislation (including the California bill), identify next steps for members to comply to legislation passed, and will allow attendees to learn more about how peers in the industry are working toward PFAS phaseout.  

 

 

Trail Mix – More Updates, Resources, and Opportunities 

Outdoor Participation Trends Report highlights: Why it Matters 

The Outdoor Foundation’s annual Outdoor Participation Trends Report recently dropped. This amazing piece of work is also a sharp tool for advocacy. We can use the topline messaging to remind our state and local elected officials about major trends regarding outdoor participation and access.  We can also use the report to provide policymakers suggestions to address challenges or act on opportunities highlighted in the report – things like more funding to get youth and families outside (state-based outdoor equity grants!); more funding to address environmental justice and increase green spaces closer to nature-starved communities; addressing major funding gaps for state parks and other public lands; and how to support local outdoor recreation economies so cities, regions, and states can harness the value of recreation as an economic driver. Here are key takeaways: 

  • In 2021, 164.2 million (54%) of Americans ages 6 and older participated in outdoor recreation at least once. This is the highest number of participants on record. 
  • New outdoor participants are more diverse than the overall outdoor participant base and are driving increasing diversity, not only by ethnicity but also across age groups. 
  • Despite increasing participation, total outdoor outings are declining significantly. Outings have been in decline for the past decade, and the increasing number of outdoor participants are not stemming the tide. (It is important to note, however, that today, 3 out of 4 participants are Caucasian. We still have a lot of work to do here.)  

State & Local Policy Working Group 

The last week of September brought the inaugural meeting of OIA’s State & Local Policy Working Group! This working group is envisioned as a place to provide education, organization, and activation for those OIA members who are interested in learning more and catalyzing change at the grassroots level. Have a peek at the deck I put together for the first meeting. Want to join the working group? Drop me a line!

 

On the Road  

The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) takes a hike!

NCEL National Forum and Hike 

I attended the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) National Forum in July. I was lucky enough to join forces with NCEL’s team to get a group of state legislators from across the nation outside on a beautiful hike to talk about pressing outdoor issues. Topics we discussed included land managers’ challenges as visitation increases, as well as barriers to outdoor access and policy options to address the highlighted topics. Thank you to Mary Ann Bonnell with Jefferson County Open Space, Jared Romero with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Rick Williams for joining the hike and sharing their collective expertise about the outdoors and access.  

The OIA Recreation Advisory Council (RAC) gathers in Portland.

OIARAC in Portland 

In August, the OIA Recreation Advisory Council (RAC) flocked to Portland, Ore., to have our first in-person meeting in many years. Our amazing hosts at Snow Peak (including RAC member Matt Liddle) and REI put together an incredible agenda and created ample opportunity for RAC members to learn more and brainstorm about 2023 advocacy efforts at the federal and state levels.  

Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit 

Pitt Grewe, the director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, and partner stakeholders welcomed outdoor recreation industry changemakers to Kamas, Utah, in September. The purpose of the summit was to focus on how to strengthen outdoor recreation communities, the outdoor recreation economy, and how to improve health and quality of life for all Utahns. I sat on a panel alongside Lindsey Davis from Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) to discuss the significance of policy and the intersection between business and advocacy.   

Sixth Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership 

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office and the Aspen International Mountain Foundation welcomed me to the Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership in late September in Aspen. I spoke on a panel about the importance of sustainability in mountain outdoor recreation economies. I was amongst great company, including Gloria Schoch, executive director at The VF Foundation; Steve Skadron, VP and campus dean of Colorado Mountain College Aspen & Carbondale; and Doreen Robinson, head of biodiversity and land at UNEP. The Aspen Times covered the event and our panel.  

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