OIA in D.C. Notes from the Hill: April 2023

This past month, outdoor industry leaders, policymakers, and other key stakeholders convened in Washington, D.C. at OIA’s annual Capitol Summit to promote OIA’s policy agenda on climate, recreation, equity in the outdoors, international trade and the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy. We look forward to continuing to use our outdoor voices to fight for the outdoor economy and our entire planet.

Hosting Annual Capitol Summit

From April 18-19, OIA’s members met directly with members of Congress and other administration officials to discuss critical legislation that supports the entirety of the outdoor recreation economy, including key topics like trade, climate, access, and equity.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the outdoor industry to be heard,” said OIA President Kent Ebersole. “Since our last Capitol Summit in 2019, more than 10 million Americans participated in outdoor recreation for the first time, or for the first time in years. This increase in the number of people spending time outside was not merely a method for managing stress from lockdown during a global pandemic. We witnessed a multi-generational mind shift around the physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of spending time in nature, as over half of the U.S. population flocked to the outdoors.”

Key speakers at the Summit included Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres-Small. Secretary Haaland kicked off the Summit to discuss the critical importance of the outdoor industry and thriving communities that rely on the restoration and health of our national parks and public lands and monuments. She specifically celebrated the successful investments to Bear Ears National Monument and Biden’s designation of the Castner Range National Monument in Texas and Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in southern Nevada. Under Secretary Torres-Small joined the Summit to highlight the great opportunities we have to further engage USDA and boost the outdoor recreation economy in rural areas.

The next day, we took to the Hill to meet with elected officials and discuss the importance of outdoor investments and other key issues.

Honoring Congressional Friends of the Industry

During the Capitol Summit, we were thrilled to announce and honor OIA’s Friend of the Industry Award recipients Representative Nanette Barragán, D-CA, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the co-chair of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Congressional Task Force; Representative Adrian Smith, R-NE, chair of the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee; and Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in recognition of their legislative leadership around outdoor recreation and their dedication to supporting the outdoor industry.

Insisting Destructive Tariffs be Lifted to Ease Burdens on American Businesses

OIA, along with the Americans for Free Trade coalition, a broad alliance of American businesses, trade organizations, and workers united against tariffs, submitted a written statement to the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways & Means Committee’s 2023 Trade Policy Agenda hearings. The statement called on Congress to insist that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) make a products exclusions process available immediately and for as long as section 301 tariffs remain in place.

Since April 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has assessed more than $173 billion in section 301 tariffs on American companies who import products from China. These taxes continue to create tremendous uncertainty, increase the cost of doing business in the U.S., and place an undue financial burden on American businesses – negatively impacting their ability to invest in their companies, hire more American workers, develop innovative technologies, and remain globally competitive.

Updating on State and Local Activity

During the Cap Summit, OIA highlighted our state policy platform and hosted a panel encouraging member companies and partners to explore more activism and investment in state-level advocacy. Joining the panel was VF Corporation’s Senior Director of Government Affairs Julie Sutton, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office’s Director Conor Hall, and Maine Outdoor Brands Executive Director Jenny Kordick.

Another exciting component of the Cap Summit was the inclusion of state-based outdoor recreation directors from across the nation, who make up the Confluence of States. The Confluence met in Annapolis prior to the Summit to discuss the development of the network, the national and local outdoor recreation economy, and opportunities to further partner with outdoor industry partners. They took their initiatives to the Hill and met with pivotal stakeholders during the Summit like Dennis Alvord, deputy assistant secretary for economic development and chief operating officer for the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), to discuss how EDA funding impacts communities and powers outdoor recreation economies across the U.S.


The View from Capitol Summit: What Happened and Where We’re Venturing Next

OIA Capitol Summit

We used our outside voices, and our industry was heard loud and clear.  

Live from the Hill, we want to extend our greatest thanks to all our sponsors, business leaders, elected officials, and fellow outdoor enthusiasts for joining us in our nation’s capital for our annual Capitol Summit! 

As the outdoor industry’s catalyst for meaningful change, we’re passionately committed to doing the work to advocate for the economy, inclusion, participation, and the health of the planet. Over the past few days, OIA galvanized the community around our advocacy priorities – and we’re just getting started. 

Read on for a recap of what went down at Capitol Summit, and a guide to opportunities for further advocacy. 

Sustaining Outdoor Traditions and Public Land Stewardship for Economic Growth is Possible 

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland 

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland invigorated attendees with her inspiring and encouraging keynote presentation about the implementation of the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Great American Outdoors Act. A member of the Pueblo of Laguna and the first Native American to serve in a cabinet secretary position, Haaland shared her perspective on the critical importance of the outdoor industry – not only to thriving communities, but also to a thriving economy. 

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland

“That’s what the Outdoor Industry Association is all about. It’s about sustaining outdoor traditions that help our communities to thrive – hunting, fishing, climbing, hiking, and everything in between – while working together to protect incredible places for future generations.  

And your dedicated efforts don’t just help steward public lands and waters for the enjoyment of all, they also have a significant and undeniable impact on our nation’s economy! 

Jobs in outdoor recreation ensure families can put food on the table, create diverse revenue streams for communities, and bring new opportunities to lesser-known outdoor spaces.” 

— Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland 

Eric Raymond, Director of Social Impact and Advocacy at The North Face, introduced the Secretary to Capitol Summit attendees, sharing “Secretary Haaland is a true inspiration, a tireless advocate for our planet, and for people from all walks of life. She is a fierce and passionate advocate for environmental justice, climate action, outdoor recreation, and conservation. And she does this all in service of future generations. We could not be more grateful for Secretary Haaland’s leadership and for her enduring support of the outdoor industry and our shared values.”  

Collective Voices and Actions on Common Ground Issues   

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres-Small educated attendees on the critical importance of rural development and agriculture to the health of the outdoor economy, while outdoor business and advocacy leaders from Conservation Alliance, Outdoor Alliance, REI Co-Op, Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, Maine Outdoor Brands, VF Corporation, KEEN Footwear, NEMO Equipment, and Vista Outdoor explored how to take action on equity, trade, and climate policy at varying governmental levels. 

We also had the chance to share our OIA team’s expertise. OIA’s President, Kent Ebersole; Director of Government Affairs, Rich Harper; State and Local Government Affairs Manager, Rebecca Gillis; Policy Fellow, Hannah Wintucky; COO Dr. Arlene Charles; and Outdoor Foundation’s Executive Director Stephanie Maez led discussions on the outdoor industry’s top policy priorities, including:  

Recreation and conservation policies like the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) and Farm Bill. 

Balanced trade policy that enables innovation and sustainable evolution like the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs). 

Additional legislative opportunities to increase equitable access to and participation in the outdoors.  

Every member of Congress and their staff has a favorite place in the outdoors and a favorite outdoor activity. You may not agree on every issue, but you can always start a conversation and that can lead to some common ground. And in a divided Congress, with a contested presidential election coming up, the ability to begin a conversation is more important than ever. Your voice will elevate and enhance our advocacy here in Washington, D.C. throughout the year – and we will support you and your business as you continue your engagement on these issues in your local communities and states,” said Rich Harper, Director of Government Affairs, OIA.  


OIA GA team


Narrowing the Nature Gap  

Our OIA and Outdoor Foundation team partnered with Friends of Anacostia Park to host a community gathering centered on outdoor equity, access, and inclusion. Attendees built relationships with local community leaders, discussed challenges like the Nature Gap, and learned collective impact strategies for breaking down barriers to outdoor access, as exemplified by the work of organizations like Outdoor Foundation and Friends of Anacostia Park. 


Thrive Outside Community Gathering


And the Outdoor Industry Award Goes to… 

During our Friend of the Outdoor Industry Award reception, Representative Nanette Barragán, Senator Joe Manchin, and Representative Adrian Smith were recognized for enduring commitment to the outdoor industry, public lands, and international trade and climate policies that promote the growth and success of outdoor businesses.  

Representative Barragán (D-CA)

Rep. Barragán is dedicated to protecting our public lands and waters and investing in initiatives to expand access to the outdoors for all Americans – regardless of zip code. A tremendous champion for equitable access and opportunity, she is a lead sponsor of the ‘Outdoors for All Act,’ which is designed to provide much-needed funding for urban green spaces. 

“I am honored to receive the Friend of Industry award from the Outdoor Industry Association. OIA’s work to support outdoor access and park equity for communities of color and low-income communities is critical for the health and well-being of our communities, and the environment. I look forward to our continued efforts to pass the Outdoors for All Act, fight climate change, and close the nature equity gap in Latino communities and communities of color,” said Rep. Barragán. 

Senator Manchin (D-WV)

Senator Manchin played an instrumental role in the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act’s $369 billion in new funding for climate solutions and infrastructure. Additionally, his sponsorship of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act – the most comprehensive outdoor recreation package since the Kennedy administration – is instrumental for the future of our industry and access to our public lands and waterways for the record number of outdoor participants. 

It is an honor to accept this award from the Outdoor Industry Association,” Senator Manchin said. “OIA has a strong history of advocating for America’s public lands and our beautiful outdoor spaces. As an avid outdoorsmen and son of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia, some of my proudest moments in Congress have been working to protect and conserve the American traditions of hunting, fishing, hiking and more. I look forward to continuing to work with OIA to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and fall in love with the great outdoors as we all have, said Senator Manchin.

Representative Smith (R-NE)

Rep. Smith is a long-time champion of the outdoor economy and OIA’s balanced trade agenda. He led the effort to add travel goods to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), resulting in $300 million in duty savings annually for outdoor companies and a $5 billion shift of trade out of China.  

“I’m honored to receive this award. A strong outdoor industry needs sound trade policy to level the playing field and compete fairly in the global marketplace. We must continue to aggressively pursue American interests to the benefit of businesses, manufacturers, and consumers alike,” said Rep. Smith. 


Advocacy Next Steps 

Together with our fellow outdoor industry business leaders, collaborators, and Congressional supporters, we made tremendous progress on our unwavering effort to advocate for the outdoor economy, outdoor participation, and our planet.  

But our work doesn’t end here, and neither do your opportunities to get involved and be a part of the movement. 

Here’s how you can continue to use your outside voice to be an advocate wherever you are – from The Hill in D.C. to the hills in your hometown: 

Download our Advocacy Handbook: Gain insight into how OIA builds and mobilizes advocacy networks on the intersectional issues that impact our industry, and how you and your company can get involved. 

Register for our Virtual Advocacy Session on May 11, 2023: Our Government Affairs team will unveil its 2023 policy agenda, and share how you and your company can engage policy makers and support the long-term health of the outdoors, outdoor participants, and company bottom lines.  

Sign up for OIA’s policy alerts, which share timely updates on key outdoor legislation and how you can take action. 

Reach out to our Government Affairs team! Learn about OIA’s member-only networking, education, and convening opportunities that align with your outdoor company’s growth strategy; explore the option of joining one of OIA’s advisory councils; and start brainstorming how your businesses can understand and apply lobbying and advocacy actions. 

Follow us on social to stay up-to-date on policy updates and new ways to get involved. 


More than ever, with urgency and swift action, OIA is committed to its work as a catalyst for meaningful and positive change for the outdoor industry, its people, and its planet. We’re using our outside voice to advocate for balanced trade policy; sustainable business solutions; and expanded, safe access to the outdoors for this generation and many more to come. Join us. 


OIA in D.C. Notes from the Hill: March 2023

Under the new leadership of Outdoor Industry Association’s President, Kent Ebersole, OIA has a renewed focus on promoting crucial legislation like America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) and working with the Biden administration to further protect our public lands, waterways, and special outdoor spaces. We look forward to expanding these initiatives next month at OIA’s 2023 Capitol Summit, where industry leaders from across the continent will gather in D.C.  

Announcing Kent Ebersole as the New OIA President 

On March 21, our Board of Directors named industry veteran Kent Ebersole as President of OIA after serving seven months as the organization’s interim executive director. 

“Every OIA member, staff, board member, or donor is a catalyst for knowledge, sustainability, collective action, inclusion and connection,” said Ebersole. “Collectively, the outdoor industry is a force of nature and most importantly a force of change. None of the work we do could happen if it wasn’t for our passionate members and collaborators. I thank them and the OIA board for this opportunity to lead our industry forward.” 

Congressional Outdoor Recreation Legislation  

After building significant support for AORA in the last Congress with lawmakers, industry leaders, and other stakeholders, we are thrilled to see Senators Manchin (D-WV) and Barrasso (R-WY) reintroduce this legislation as federal support for and investments in recreation infrastructure and public lands are critical to the continued success of the outdoor industry.  

In a letter– which will be sent to the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – OIA expresses how provisions laid out in AORA will increase access to the outdoors by simplifying the permitting process for public lands and cutting regulatory red tape that creates barriers to recreation, providing meaningful economic opportunities to countless communities and local outdoor industry businesses.  

Additionally, Fred Ferguson, vice president of public affairs and communications at Vista, testified before the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands on March 28, advocating for policies like the BOLT Act, Range Access Act, FILM Act, SOAR Act, and SHRED Act to expand recreation opportunities and fund organizations whose missions bring more people outside. 

The bills would inject critical federal investments in recreation infrastructure and public parks and take steps to help ensure America’s outdoors are open, sustainable, and equally accessible for all. This package is designed to accommodate Americans’ growing participation in outdoor recreation. 

Ferguson emphasized how outdoor recreation is a pillar of the United States economy and “the current climate and long-term outlook make today’s bipartisan hearing essential, and we urge the Subcommittee to move with speed and conviction to enact these bills.” 

Applauding Biden Administration Investments in Public Lands 

On March 21, Ebersole praised President Biden’s White House Conservation in Action Summit announcement to establish two new national monuments saying, “from Utah – where OIA strongly advocated for the protection of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – to Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada and Castner Range National Monument in Texas, we are thrilled to see President Biden protecting communities and public lands that honor local businesses, military veterans, and Tribal Nations.” 

The Biden administration continues to deliver on the most ambitious land and water conservation agenda to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The outdoor industry, along with its 100-member-strong Climate Action Corps, commends these historic investments and national monument designations. 

Announcing Partnership with Climate Neutral 

On March 28, OIA announced its latest partnership with Climate Neutral to make it easier for OIA members to measure their carbon emissions. By partnering with Climate Neutral, OIA is demonstrating its commitment to supporting sustainability in the outdoor industry and providing its members with the tools and resources they need to make a positive impact on the environment. 

The use of the Brand Emissions Estimator tool and achievement of Climate Neutral certification by a significant number of OIA members offers a tangible milestone on the pathway towards OIA’s industry goal of becoming climate positive by 2030. 

Praising the Introduction of the Environmental Justice in Recreation Permitting Act 

On March 14, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Environmental Justice in Recreation Permitting Actto help underserved community groups access and enjoy Nevada’s public lands for outdoor recreation. 

Ebersole praised how “simplifying the permitting process for public lands and cutting regulatory red tape will eliminate barriers to outdoor recreation, support local businesses, and bring meaningful economic opportunities to thousands of communities… We commend Senator Cortez Masto for leading the charge.” 

Updating on State and Local Activity 

State legislative sessions across the U.S. are in full swing! Here are updates about state-based work OIA is leading or supporting alongside membership and stakeholder partners. 

New Mexico: On Thursday, March 23, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund. This historic program creates a permanent fund for outdoor recreation, outdoor equity, public land conservation, climate resilience, and more. 

Wyoming: On March 9, Governor Mark Gordon signed legislation that will create the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Trust Fund with an initial $6 million appropriation. The funds will be devoted to carrying out projects supporting twelve state parks, two of the nation’s most popular national parks, and world-class hiking, hunting, fishing, and climbing. In a state where the outdoor sector contributes $1.5 billion to the state’s economy and sustains over 15,000 jobs, this funding is essential to Wyoming’s economy and heritage.  


OIA in D.C. Notes from the Hill: January – February 2023

OIA in D.C. Notes from the Hill: January-February 2023

Just two months into the new Congress, we are already seeing vital work being done on behalf of our industry. The bipartisan, bicameral Outdoors for All Act has been reintroduced and has the potential to expand outdoor recreational opportunities in urban and low-income communities; it would also steer federal investments in green spaces and protect public lands and waterways. OIA looks forward to continuing to work with members of Congress to advance this bill and others to increase access to the outdoors, fight for climate action, and enhance the outdoor recreation economy.

Furthering Administration Protections of U.S. Lands and Waters

At the end of January, the White House announced a series of major actions to advance conservation, combat climate change, honor Tribal Nations, and support local economies. The Biden administration finalized protections for three unique ecosystems: Tongass National Forest, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and Bristol Bay salmon fisheries.

Kent Ebersole, interim executive director of OIA, responded that “we are thrilled to see the Biden administration continue to champion the protection of public lands which are integral to the economic success of the $862 billion outdoor industry. Preserving outdoor spaces like the Boundary Waters – which are a cornerstone to local economies and traditions in the region – is a continuing investment in the physical, mental, and economic well-being of all Americans.”

Announcing Shift Advantage As Climate Action Corps Official Partner

OIA and Shift Advantage are pleased to announce that Shift Advantage is now an official partner of the OIA Climate Action Corps, supporting OIA members on their climate journey. With the new Shift Advantage partnership, OIA members can now save up to 15% percent on climate sustainability consulting services.

Together, OIA and Shift Advantage hosted a webinar demonstrating services they provide,  like carbon reduction planning, and sharing how brands can take action to achieve the OIA Climate Action Corps goal for the industry to become climate positive by 2030.

Educating Trade S

how Attendees at Outdoor Retailer Snow Show

The OIA government affairs team traveled to Salt Lake City in January to attend the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show to educate trade show attendees on numerous topics, including the state of the industry following the 2022 elections, PFAS phase out, outdoor industry trade priorities, and equity and inclusion in the outdoors. OIA will continue to be the education sponsor for Outdoor Retailer and is excited to provide more education to  show attendees in June.

Supporting Gateway Communities That Serve National Park Visitors

This month, U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the bipartisan “Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act” to support gateway communities, boost visitation at lesser-known parks and recreation areas, and require a digital version of the America the Beautiful annual pass.

Kent Ebersole praised how “this legislation would lay the groundwork for communities surrounding national parks and public lands to have additional tools at the ready to pursue long-term, sustainable solutions to support and enhance local infrastructure being pushed to the limits by the recent dramatic increase in visitors to many of these areas.”

Updating on State and Local Activity

State legislative sessions across the U.S. are in full swing! Here are updates about state-based work OIA is leading or supporting alongside member and stakeholder partners.

New Mexico: OIA is working in partnership with REI and on-the-ground recreation and conservation organizations to support New Mexico Senate Bill 9. This historic bill – which has bicameral, bipartisan support – would set up the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund, the state’s first sustained investment in numerous programs increasing conservation, fire mitigation, recreation amenity fund, and the wildly popular New Mexico Outdoor Equity Fund. OIA and REI representatives made a trip to Santa Fe recently to advocate for this legislation’s passage and thank its sponsors.

Nevada: OIA and our partners are closely monitoring the financing of an existing outdoor equity fund, the Outdoor Education and Recreation Grant Program. The program was created but then unfunded in past legislative sessions. OIA is also working with on-the-ground outdoor recreation businesses to strengthen an outdoor business alliance in the state.

Georgia: We are working with a broad coalition of stakeholders across environmental organizations, the local recreation alliance, on-the-ground lobbyists, and other recreation businesses to establish a director of outdoor recreation. Georgia House Bill 314 will create a director of recreation in the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesota: With the new Democratic trifecta, there is building momentum to establish an outdoor recreation office with a focus on outdoor access and economic development. We are also keeping in touch with and providing guidance to a coalition of local outdoor business leaders who are proactively exploring the establishment of an outdoor business alliance of Minnesota-headquartered industry companies.

Confluence Summit in Alaska Highlights Equity and Active Transportation 

Written by Alaska Outdoor Alliance (AOA) Executive Director Lee Hart

Nearly 80 outdoor industry stakeholders and allies traveled by plane and ferry and across the Canadian border to take part in Alaska Outdoor Alliance’s 7th Annual Confluence: Summit on the Outdoor Recreation Economy, held in Haines last month. 

Key state and federal leaders participating in the event before and after their brief remarks included Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Raina Thiele, senior advisor to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for Alaska Affairs & Strategic Priorities; and Julia Hnilicka, USDA Rural Development state director. 

This year’s theme, regenerative economies, attracted leaders in outdoor; tourism; economic development; and local, state, territorial, tribal and federal land managers, as well as counterparts from the Yukon. A subgroup of attendees pledged to continue collaborating on transboundary economic development priorities. Another subgroup has already met to form the foundation of a statewide active transportation coalition.  

“From the Arctic to the Tongass, there are incredible efforts literally transforming local economies and ways of connecting with the outdoors that are being guided by Indigenous wisdom and values,” said AOA Executive Director Lee Hart. “Confluence facilitated candid, passionate conversations among participants that led to a list of action steps aimed at co-creating a more regenerative future.” 

Unique to many industry gatherings, Confluence was co-presented by the Chilkoot Indian Association, which hosted a salmon bake, after which participants shared stories highlighting centuries-old relationships with land, water, fish, wildlife, and ancestors. On the last stormy day of the event, the nearby Chilkat Indian Village gifted a special, personalized tour of their Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center, a network helping to address the pressing issue of where to put precious clan treasures and the villagers’ desire to rebuild and restore their cultural heritage. 

OIA + CORP Virtual Sacramento Summit 2022

Watch on-demand: California Outdoor Recreation Partnership and Outdoor Industry Association’s 5th Sacramento Summit!


The California Outdoor Recreation Partnership, with support from Outdoor Industry Association, was pleased to host the 5th Sacramento Summit for outdoor recreation policy. From May 23-25, hundreds of outdoor recreation enthusiasts participated in our Sacramento Summit. Businesses and organizations met for a virtual advocacy day to hear from state policymakers, legislators, and decision-makers. Summit participants engaged in and drove conversation to protect public lands and advocate for equitable access, environmental justice, climate resilience including the 30×30 initiative, and outdoor recreation infrastructure.

Summit Objectives

  • Advocate for equitable access, climate resiliency, and funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure.
  • Connect the California outdoor recreation community with stakeholders, state agency leaders and key legislative members and continue to build state-level government relationships.
  • Networking opportunities for members.

Advocacy Day Program: 8 am – 12 pm on Monday, May 23, 2022

Lobby Meetings: Monday, May 23 – Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Advocacy Day Activities:

  • Remarks from Policymakers and Outdoor Recreation Advocates
  • Meetings with state-level policymakers and agency officials
  • Coffee Networking Event
  • Happy Hour Networking Event

Special thanks to The North Face and REI for their support of our work at California Outdoor Recreation Partnership.


Presenters: Amy Horton, Outdoor Industry Association; Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-RI)

Description: Climate change threatens the outdoor experience that our industry depends on. While our businesses invest in ambitious carbon reduction and removals in our operations and supply chains, we must also step up to advocate, engage our consumers and enable broader system change through effective policy at all levels of government. Recent legislative and administrative action brings hope, but narrower margins in both the House and Senate impart cautious optimism. In this session, long-time climate champion Senator Sheldon Whitehouse reveals his optimism for what can get done this Congress and why now is a critical time for outdoor businesses to show up. This discussion will both inspire and provide practical insight on what federal legislative action is possible, what it will take and how the outdoor business voice can play a key role.

  • Welcome, intros and summary of outdoor industry climate policy priorities, Amy Horton, Outdoor Industry Association
  • Long-time climate champion Senator Sheldon Whitehouse shares his prospects and strategies for climate policy progress and suggestions for how the outdoor business community can be a helpful partner.
  • Q&A from OIA members and partners

Thrive Outside Profile Series: Kristen Ragain

Q&A: Kristen Ragain, manager of philanthropy and community partnerships for REI Co-op

REI Co-op has donated $1 million to the Thrive Outside initiative in hopes of helping kids in urban centers around the U.S. have repeating outdoor experiences in slices of nature close to home. As manager of REI Co-op’s philanthropy and community partnerships programs, Kristen Ragain works to support programming that ensures that every person can benefit from time outdoors. We asked her why it’s so important to support this, and how she thinks the average American’s outdoor experience could change once life begins to return to normal.

Why is it important to REI to support Thrive Outside?
As one of the leaders in the outdoor industry, we knew it was important for REI to support this effort from the very beginning. The average American spends 95 percent of their life inside and this contributes to so many different challenges our society faces. At the co-op, we want to help reverse this trend. Connecting youth and families to the outdoors is one critical way to help do that. The 2019 Outdoor Participation Report shows people are connecting to the outdoors less and less [Editor’s note: Americans took one billion fewer outdoor outings in 2018 compared to 2008] so we appreciated that Thrive Outside supported the idea of repeating and reinforcing outdoor experiences. Having a progression plan in place and a sense of reinforcement allows for a community to grow and connect. It will be really exciting for all of us in the outdoor industry, and others, to start seeing the results of Thrive Outside so we can all learn from it and use that information for our philanthropic and community engagement work.

What are your hopes for what some of those outcomes may be?
My hope is that participants in the program see the outdoors as a daily/regular part of their lives and spend time in close to home nature which can improve overall health and wellbeing.

During the Covid-19 crisis we are seeing that more people than ever before are seeking refuge,solace and wellbeing in close-to-home nature. Hiking and biking on local trails and parks, paddling, and walks in natural areas have been supportive and healing for many. the Outdoor Foundation, with Thrive Outside, and also the broader industry, has a huge opportunity here to come through COVID and help people reimagine that daily connection to the outdoors and how important it is for our health and wellbeing both as individuals and as a collective community and society.

Do you think we might see a bigger shift toward those close-to-home spaces?
I think we’re going to be seeing people looking to recreate in nearby outdoor places, especially in the next 18 months or so. Maybe someone who was really into backcountry trips is now taking up local trail running, or maybe someone who used to do a lot of indoor yoga and fitness is now doing those things outdoors. I think across the board there are going to be more people spending time in local parks, trails, and waterways. It’s an interesting time for the organizations that are stewarding these places, because they’re seeing an increase in participation and usage, and obviously a decrease in funding. Outdoor places need to be maintained and experiences for connecting youth outdoors need to be cultivated and supported. Hopefully, this is an opportunity to raise awareness that we can’t take these things for granted and we need to increase support for the organizations that are doing what they can to create equitable access to the outdoors for all people.

What do you think, an equitable outdoors looks like?
It is important to work towards the Trust for Public Lands’s goal that everyone should be within a 10-minute walk to a great place to get outside. But, many also know that just because access to the outdoors is available, not everyone feels safe in the outdoors or a sense of belonging in nature. This is a significant barrier. So, equitable access to the outdoors needs to be about ensuring access and working towards a reality where everyone can feel safe being themselves and find their place in the outdoors.

What drives your passion for this work?
As a child, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, assuming that everyone was able to experience the outdoors as my family did through hiking, camping, climbing, biking, etc. As I grew up, I realized this was not the case and was inspired to work for environmental nonprofits and, now, REI, which works to connect all people to the outdoors. The outdoors is good for us. What could our planet be like if nearby access to nature and the outdoors was a basic human right for all? This idea, this question, is what gets me out of bed every day ready to support, advocate and work for equitable access to the outdoors no matter one’s race, orientation or economics.

Webinar: Virtual Discussion: The 2020 Election and Beyond: What’s at stake for the outdoor recreation economy?

When: Thursday, October 8, 2020, 2:00 p.m. (EST)

Speakers: OIA Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

The 2020 election will be one of the most consequential contests for the outdoor recreation economy. Following enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act, our top priorities are all on the ballot – from tackling climate change and preserving our public lands and waters to expanding access to the outdoors for all Americans to new investments in green infrastructure and close-to-home recreation as outdoor companies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. What can outdoorists expect from the next administration and Congress? What can we learn from our past wins, and how can we ensure our voice is heard?

Listen to this timely discussion of these issues featuring OIA Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), one of Congress’ leading sportsmen and conservationists and a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Webinar: #VoteTheOutdoors 2020 Social Media Launch

Speakers: Andriana Rogers and Rich Harper, OIA; Katie Boué, Outdoor Advocacy Project

Election season is upon us, which signals the return of the #VoteTheOutdoors voter education campaign. We need every outdoor voice to unify (and vote!) this November. Join us to learn about how outdoorists and brands can become part of the #VoteTheOutdoors movement.


View the 2020 Voters Guide