Outdoor Recreation Leaders Meet with Montana U.S. Senator to Discuss Public Lands Issues
Key recreation community leaders, including RVDA and other members of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR), met with Montana’s U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) recently to express appreciation for his leadership on Great Outdoors Month and his support for increasing recreation participation on public lands. Senator Daines has championed outdoor recreation on the floor of the Senate and assembled a bipartisan team of Senators to pass the first-ever Senate resolution declaring June Great Outdoors Month and will be holding a hearing in late September entitled “Encouraging the Next Generation to Visit National Parks.”
During the meeting, Senator Daines described outdoor recreation as one of the – if not the – biggest sectors of his state’s economy and raised several issues which constrain parks and other public lands in Montana from delivering their full potential of great experiences. His topics included poor connectivity and the backlog in deferred maintenance in visitor infrastructure. He expressed support for expanding and enhancing recreation facilities and noted the resistance proposed improvements encounter. He described the very large financial and experience benefits his state has received from the Big Sky development, including a ski area and more on national forest lands, and expressed strong doubts that such a world class development would be permitted today.
Representatives of the recreation community told the Senator about challenges facing many visitors, including campers. National park campgrounds are “Eisenhower era,” he was told, and as a result usage is dropping, especially among the growing number of RV owners. He heard about successes in on-line pass sales and opportunities to better use technology to plan visits to, and enhance actual experience on, the nation’s public lands and waters.
The recreation community noted its support for important initiatives underway at the U.S. Department of the Interior under Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Senator express strong support for the actions and the Secretary, noting that he and the Secretary had first met nearly 40 years ago at Montana Boy’s State.
The Secretary sought the recreation community’s support to deal with the fire management challenges in his state and across much of the nation, describing it as both a funding issue and a legal challenge system that needs correction. He noted that fires were at destroying important recreation assets as the meeting took place, exacerbated by poor management decisions and court challenges even when the hard work of consensus building on fuel management was done well.
The recreation leaders described a range of opportunities ripe for consideration by two key subcommittees chaired by the Senator: the Subcommittee on National Parks and the Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources. The leaders offered to work with the Senator to better communicate his efforts and the efforts underway at Interior and the Forest Service through the recreation community’s large and diverse communications channels, from trade and consumer pubs to social media to websites and large gathering including shows and conventions.
As the meeting closed, the Senator showed off pictures in his office of his recess activities with family in the Great Outdoors and interacted with many of the participants on Montana experiences and Montana recreation businesses.
In addition to the Senator, the conversations included his Senior Policy Advisor, Meghan Thacker, and Annie Hoefler, Professional Staff Member for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The recreation organizations participating in the meeting were:
American Horse Council
American Recreation Coalition
American Sportfishing Association
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP
The Corps Network
Motorcycle Industry Council
NIC Inc.National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Off Highway Vehicle Conservation Council
National Park Hospitality Association
Outdoor Industry Association
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
Information on Senator Steve Daines at his official website: https://www.daines.senate.gov/meet-steve/biography.