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. 


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

Audio Outdoorist: Campfire Conversation: Bouncing Back – How Resiliency Can Help the Outdoor Industry Move Forward

Outdoor industry businesses and employees have been overwhelmed by the impacts of the COVID-19 situation for months now, trying to stay safe while keeping themselves afloat. But as we begin to realize that COVID-19 will be part of our lives for some time, how do individuals and businesses in the outdoor industry move from treading water to being agile and successful in our “new normal?” Join us around the campfire as we discuss how members of the outdoor industry can create resiliency to adapt to the changing landscape, stay true to their core values, and even thrive while navigating an uncertain future.

Continue reading

Campfire Conversation: Conservation & Recreation Advocacy From Home

Join us for a collaborative campfire conversation with Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, The Conservation Alliance and Outdoor Alliance while they discuss support efforts of policy initiatives through in-person and virtual advocacy amid the pandemic safer-at-home orders.

OIA Campfire Conversations, is our new special video and audio series that is part of our Audio Outdoorist podcast. You can find the podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.

These episodes are your opportunity to be a fly on the wall, to listen in as thought leaders and subject-matter experts chat about issues that are important, relevant and timely. The conversations will be candid and casual, fluid and free-flowing. Our hope is that you’ll come away with deeper — and maybe even some new — insights as you consider the various perspectives of the participants. As the trade association of the outdoor industry, OIA’s aim is to convene the diverse thinkers and changemakers whose work and ideas will steer us toward continued growth. We’ll post these as videos on our website for you to watch on your computer, and we’ll publish them on our Audio Outdoorist podcast, so you can listen on your next hike, bike or paddle. Thanks for listening in and enjoy the conversation.