Beaches, mountains, desert, plains, forests—California has it all and is well-known as a western playground for all types of adventure.

Yesterday, the legislature recognized the need to protect and promote the state's precious land. They unanimously passed a bill to create the Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation, making California the 12th state with a task force or office.

Map of OREC offices with the addition of California

As of August 2018, eight states have government offices and four other states have task forces or advisory councils.

Born, raised, and still based in Marin—across the Golden Gate Strait from San Francisco— Outside PR President Gordon Wright gushed about what a good day it is for his home state to finally have an office for recreation.

"The reason why I’m so excited about it is outdoor recreation is enormous in California," Wright said. "The fact that it was passed by a unanimous vote is very telling. There is not a lot of unanimity in any political issue anywhere, so the fact that the state came together  indicates that this is an important priority for California."

While a mandate for the office has not been written yet, Wright hopes the new office takes two issues under its wing: Promoting the diversity of sports as well as the diversity of people who partake, and reconciling any tensions between mountain bikers and hikers, for example, to unite all types of outdoorists.

Outdoor industry veteran Kenji Haroutunian said it's a long time coming. He said the industry needs a strong voice to bridge the connection between public lands and the public, meaning voters, urbanites, and people of all cultures and ages and experiences.

"It's so exciting that we, as Californians involved in active outdoor recreation and the industry around it, are on the verge of having a legislated office dedicated to increasing service and access to our wild spaces and growing industry," he said. "This means powering a strong voice and shaping policy and investment to include more people recreating outside, while mitigating impacts and reducing barriers to participation."

Haroutunian added, "Some think these are mutually exclusive efforts, but in my time in the industry as a guide, retailer, event producer, and access advocate, I have seen the future. It's not mutually exclusive at all, in fact the opposite."

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has led or been instrumental in the establishment of similar offices in states across the country. Michigan was the most recent state to create a council, following Vermont and with task forces.

Washington, Oregon, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and North Carolina already have official government offices in place, and leaders recently signed off on shared political principles.

"We look forward to working with the new Office of Sustainable Recreation to support California’s outdoor recreation economy, the largest of any state," said Amy Roberts, OIA executive director. "Thank you to the California outdoor and business communities that contacted their elected officials and signed onto letters addressed to legislative leaders and administration officials in support of AB 1918 and California’s recreation economy."

Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia was the primary author, and co-authors included Assembly Members Wendy Carrillo, Frank Bigelow, Kansen Chu, James Gallagher, Marc Levine, Rudy Salas Jr., Jim Wood, and Catherine Baker.

The bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

Related

Governor Jerry Brown standing at a podium

California governor vetoes key OREC bill

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill yesterday that would have created the Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation, despite overwhelming bipartisan support.  His signing of AB 1918 would have made California the 12th state with an official office or task force to ...read more

Yosemite Valley with snow and red trees

An update on California's push for a recreation office

Despite former California Governor Jerry Brown's kibosh of a bill to create an outdoor recreation office, an advocacy group is stepping up to see the legislation through under the new administration. Next Monday, California Outdoor Recreation Partnership (CORP) will lead an ...read more

Convict Lake in Mammoth Lakes

Outdoor recreation advocates hone in on California

“California has the granite walls of Yosemite, we have the Sierra, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, the Shasta-Cascade region, the Redwoods and our pristine coastline,” said Katie Hawkins, an advocate for outdoor recreation in the Golden State. So why is it taking ...read more

A lake in North Carolina surrounded by red, yellow, and green trees

New Hampshire scores outdoor recreation office

New Hampshire followed in the footsteps of 15 other states by creating its own office of outdoor recreation, signed into legislation on Thursday by Gov. Chris Sununu. “New Hampshire’s low tax environment and booming economy are a beacon for business in the northeast,” Sununu said ...read more

A lighthouse on the rocky coast of Acadia National Park in Maine

BREAKING: Maine poised to get OREC office

Maine is getting closer to leveraging its billion-dollar outdoor recreation economy through an official state office. Today, the state's Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) in a news alert announced the welcoming of Carolann Ouellette as director of the "newly ...read more

Man watching pink sky at McAfee Knob, Virginia

Now there are 15 outdoor recreation offices in the U.S.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam climbed into a kayak along the marshy shore of Carvins Cove Natural Reserve on Thursday. Wearing a "Virginia is for outdoor lovers" T-shirt, he spent part of his day paddling the lake, enjoying one of the places that will be protected by a new state ...read more

Woman in a canoe at sunset at Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Minnesota sets up outdoor recreation task force

With beaches, forests, plains, and mountains, Minnesota is a bountiful land for outdoor enthusiasts. And soon, a task force of 20 people will identify even more outdoor economic and participation opportunities around the state. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, ...read more

fisherman in a boat on a misty lake in Dodgeville, Wisconsin

Wisconsin establishes outdoor recreation office

The windswept beaches and cliffs of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The rolling hills of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The quiet waters of a stretch of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The 47-run Cascade Mountain ski area. These places, along with many more, will ...read more

Headshot of Carolann Ouellette, Maine OREC

Maine's OREC director is rad

Six months have passed since Carolann Ouellette was hired to lead Maine's Office of Outdoor Recreation and based on the support from Gov. Janet Mills and other in decision-making roles, it sounds like she'll be around for much longer. Ouellette's post and office will soon be ...read more