Kilmer Leads Call for Outdoor Recreation Industry Relief

Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06), along with Representatives Joe Neguse, Joe Cunningham, and Brian Fitzpatrick, led over 100 legislators to request strong funding in future COVID-19 economic relief legislation for federal programs that serve as the foundation of the outdoor recreation industry —a critical sector that provides jobs and economic support to many local communities in northwest Washington and across the country.

“Growing up on the Olympic Peninsula, I’ve seen firsthand how our National Park and public lands have captivated visitors and created generations of jobs,” said Rep. Kilmer. “But unfortunately, many of our most iconic landscapes and visitor experiences are falling into disrepair. As we work to recover from this pandemic, it’s absolutely critical that we provide dedicated funding for deferred maintenance and LWCF to support rural economies and keep our public lands accessible for future generations.”

In a letter addressed to House and Senate leadership, Rep. Kilmer and the other members stressed the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which has established many of our nation’s most coveted public lands that generate billions of dollars for state and local economies. The members urged that Congress deliver full and permanent funding for LWCF at the authorized level of $900 million to ensure continued federal investment in parks and public lands which will aid the recovery of communities that rely on a strong outdoor recreation economy.

The letter also requested that Congress provide strong funding to address the backlog of maintenance projects on public lands. Decades of underfunding and neglect have led to overgrown trails, crumbling roads, and dilapidated buildings, leading to $11.9 billion in deferred maintenance projects in national parks alone.

In February 2019, Rep. Kilmer re-introduced the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act to address the deferred maintenance backlog by utilizing federal energy development revenue not otherwise allocated for other purposes. The legislation is now supported by over 325 Members of Congress and passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee in June 2019.

“The outdoor recreation industry serves as the economic engine for many of our local communities supporting 5.2 million jobs nationally and contributing 2.2 percent to our national gross domestic product,” said Rep. Neguse. “Congress must approve full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and ensure that we address the backlog of conservation and recreation access needs in every state across the country. This will both create jobs in the communities surrounding our public places and improve the quality of our parks when they safely open for visitors.”  

“Communities like the Lowcountry rely on LWCF and public lands programs to support the outdoor recreation, hospitality, and tourism industries, key sectors of the economy that have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rep. Cunningham. “As we begin the slow process of recovery, it is critical that we fully fund LWCF, support local jobs, and ensure continued funding for the places that help drive our coastal economy.”

“Since its establishment, the LWCF has made numerous contributions to our economy, creating jobs in local communities and promoting recreational activity,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Providing robust funding for the LWCF would help relieve the backlog of maintenance projects at our national parks and other public lands, allowing millions of Americans to continue to enjoy their beauty.”

“The outdoor recreation industry has been dealt a devastating blow by this pandemic, from mom and pop retail stores and rural guides and outfitters, to large outdoor equipment manufacturers and service providers. When Americans aren’t visiting their favorite national park, or checking out the newest outdoor products, vehicles and gear — it has a dual impact on our industry,” said Jessica Turner, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “Our industry applauds the efforts of Congressmen Neguse, Fitzpatrick, Cunningham and Kilmer to urge their colleagues to include full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and imperative resources for the maintenance of our public lands in the next COVID-19 package. Their leadership supports our industry, which annually contributes over $778 billion to the economy and employs over five million Americans, so businesses large and small can get back to doing what they do best- supporting healthy economies, communities and people.”

View text of the letter here.