Underscoring Outdoor Industry Association's (OIA) increasing sphere of influence in Washington, D.C., OIA hosted a press conference on April 1 so that Congressmen George Miller, D-Calif., and Don Young, R-Alaska, could announce the introduction of the Get Outdoors Act. The Act, which will establish a trust fund of $3.1 billion in annual funding to encourage physical activity and recreation, is designed to get more Americans outdoors by providing access to parks and recreation areas in urban and rural communities.
"Congress cannot, and should not, tell Americans what to eat, but we can fight the battle of the bulge by investing in local parks, recreation centers, soccer fields and hiking trails. If we are serious about addressing the long-term cost of obesity-related health problems, we have to recognize the importance of recreation opportunities for children, adults and families," Congressmen Miller told a packed press-conference room.
Added Congressman Young, "More importantly than simply providing dollars, The Get Outdoors Act establishes new priorities for conservation and recreation funding. It provides policy that is driven by local priorities and not federal dictates. I've worked hard on this concept all my years in Congress because I believe that this is good and right for the nation."
"We were thrilled that Congressmen Miller and Young chose our event at which to introduce their new bill," Myrna Johnson, OIA's vice president of government affairs, told SNEWSÂ®. "It is gratifying to see the industry's stature continue to grow."
Specifically, the bipartisan bill will provide $3.125 billion per year, derived from revenues from offshore energy production, for the following:
- $1.45 billion to local and state governments for recreation and conservation purposes;
- $650 million to assist federal land managers in maintaining and enhancing public lands;
- $350 million to local governments near public lands to assist with community needs;
- $125 million to local governments for urban parks and recreation programs;
- $350 million to enhance access to hunting, angling and wildlife viewing;
- $50 million to protect imperiled wildlife and rare plants; and
- $160 million to protect historic places.
"For all Americans -- whether they live in cities, suburbs or in rural areas -- this bill will create and sustain convenient, attractive places that people will want to go to have fun and get exercise," Miller added.
For more information on this legislation and how to become involved in ensuring the bill's passage, contact Johnson by email at email@example.com.
SNEWSÂ® View: Don't expect much action from Congress this year, but the effort to begin supporting this bill and the work to ensure its passage next year, regardless of who is in office, must begin now. SNEWSÂ® spoke with Congressman Miller while we were in D.C. and asked him what the industry needed to do to help him push this bill through. He told us that each and every retailer in each and every town across this country needed to personally contact their congressional representatives and let them know that their business depended on the passage of this bill. "You need to make this an economic issue," Miller told us. "Congressmen and women are genetically predisposed to saying yes to their constituents. We don't like to say no. So if every retailer invites their representatives into their stores, into their places of business, and becomes a face that is explaining how, if there are not places to recreate, they will lose customers and possibly go out of business, you begin presenting a powerful argument for support of the bill." OIA has already begun the work of establishing a face in D.C. But now, each and every business in our industry needs to become a face to state and federal legislators as well. We, our industry, have a powerful economic argument to make -- if there are no appropriate places for recreation, there are no sales, no business, no tax revenue, more unemployed workers, and worse. The work has just begun and it is time to roll up our sleeves.