From the Traverse-City Record Eagle: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah on a new push to get kids out of the house and outdoors:
Our two states, Utah and Michigan, were the first and most recent to create offices of outdoor recreation, in part because of a desire to advance efforts to provide kids and others with greater access to the great outdoors.
We also see a great opportunity to partner with a sector that contributes $887 billion and more than 7.6 million jobs to the national economy each year and is growing faster than the U.S. economy as a whole.
There are 13 other states across the country whose governors have created similar offices or task forces, and the number is expected to continue to increase.
They’re talking up the Outdoor Recreation Learning Network which was launched last year by the National Governors Association to encourage people to enjoy their natural resources.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the outdoors industry employed more than 4.5 million people nationally in 2016, and generated more than $730 billion in economic impact.
NGA Solutions: The Center for Best Practices will partner with state outdoor recreation directors through the network to convene governors’ office staffs and other state officials. Through peer-to-peer exchanges, the network will spotlight strategies states can use to advance outdoor recreation. It will focus on key issue areas, including conservation, stewardship, education, workforce training, economic development, infrastructure, public health, equity and wellness.
“Utah launched the first state outdoor recreation office in 2013 to focus on recreation management, support recreation businesses and ensure that our state’s cherished natural assets can sustain economic growth for years to come,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who noted that outdoor recreation contributes $12.3 billion to the Utah economy and employs more than 110,000 people.
The founding sponsors of the Outdoor Recreation Learning Network include REI Co-op, the Outdoor Industry Association and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.
“We have seen states with offices of outdoor recreation take great steps forward promoting and bolstering outdoor recreation – bringing more jobs and revenue to rural and gateway communities and coordinating amongst government agencies while helping to get more children and families outside and into healthier lifestyles,” said David Weinstein, state and local policy director for Outdoor Industry Association. “The Outdoor Recreation Learning Network will be a great resource for existing outdoor recreation offices and for states looking to develop new offices to collaborate on and improve outdoor programs and initiatives – OIA looks forward to helping build it.”