Cantwell-Introduced Bipartisan ‘Recreation for All Act’ Passes Committee Unanimously

Bill aims to increase youth visits to federal lands, collect better visitor data, and improve recreational experiences; State of Washington’s outdoor economy generates $12B and supports 114,000 jobs each year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the bipartisan Recreation for All Act was unanimously passed by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as part of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA). The Recreation for All Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in April. The comprehensive outdoor recreation package, AORA, will move on to the full Senate for consideration.

“[The bill] tries to increase our information about outdoor recreation opportunities to make it easier and to try to get more young people, kids, on the trails to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors,” said Sen. Cantwell at yesterday’s committee markup. “We know that the outdoor economy is a $12 billion recreational opportunity. And in 2021, 8.2 million visitors spent an estimated $530 million visiting our national parks in the State of Washington, and it supports 114,000 jobs.”

The Recreation for All Act would:

  1. Require the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a national strategy to increase youth recreation visits to federal lands, with a focus on underserved youth.
  2. Require relevant land management agencies to pilot the use of new technologies to collect comprehensive visitor data.
  3. Require relevant land management agencies to immediately inform the public about closures or other access issues for roads, trails, or other public areas on their websites.
  4. Require the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to issue an annual report on the total amount of federal funding spent on outdoor recreation to avoid duplicating funds and help Congress allocate funds appropriately.

The legislation directs the four primary land management agencies – the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, and National Park Service – to increase outdoor recreational opportunities for youth, including underserved youth, pilot new technologies to better track the number and type of recreational visitors to federal land, and require land management agencies to improve their online communication to visitors about road and trail closures.

“Everyone benefits when we make outdoor recreation easier to take part in,” said Sen. Cantwell when the bill was introduced. “One of the goals of this bill is to get more kids hiking on our trails and discovering the joys of outdoor recreation, which will help ensure that our public lands are cared for and flourish into the future.” 

America’s outdoor recreation economy generates over $450 billion in annual gross domestic product and supports 4.5 million American jobs. In Washington state alone, the outdoor recreation economy contributes over $12 billion in value added annually and supports over 114,000 direct jobs. In fiscal year 2019, DOI lands hosted an estimated 501 million visitors.

Video of Sen. Cantwell’s remarks are available HERE, audio HERE, and transcript HERE.

The full bill text is available HERE.