In the closing weeks of 2020, Congress passed and the President signed a $900 billion stimulus bill with a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the end of the 2021 fiscal year. As a result of RV Industry Association and ORR members’ work, a number of key priorities advancing the outdoor recreation were included.
“The RV Industry Association applauds Congress for providing much-needed appropriations for the federal land agencies on which RVers rely, as well as full funding to advance the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA),” said RV Industry Association Director of Federal Affairs Chris Bornemann. “Having the ORSA numbers has been a gamechanger for those of us advocating for RV and outdoor recreation needs on Capitol Hill. This data helps policymakers better understand the massive $788 billion economic impact of outdoor recreation on the U.S. economy and gives the industry an important seat at the table.”
The bill also advances the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), a top priority of the RV industry that became law this past summer. It provides full funding through the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund for priority projects addressing outdoor recreation infrastructure and the maintenance backlog at national parks, forests wildlife refuges, and other public lands. It also provides full funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect and conserve lands and waters across the country. GAOA will ultimately provide the largest single investment in our nation’s federal lands in nearly a century – $14 billion over the next five years to directly address critical deferred maintenance, outdoor recreation projects, and conservation needs on our nation’s iconic public lands, including many campground related projects.
The RV Industry Association also applauds the inclusion of funds for critical wildfire management activities. Additionally, language supported by the RV Industry Association and Outdoor Recreation Roundtable that encourages the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to consider outdoor recreation projects that are consistent with a region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for various funding programs that assist in rural economic development and recovery was included in the bill.
“Outdoor recreation is well-positioned and already playing a key role in the economic recovery of the nation,” said Bornemann. “Appropriate federal investment and attention to rural jobs and economic growth through outdoor recreation opportunities, like RV camping, will help address the needs of distressed communities, especially those that have lost other industries and need an economic boost.”
EDA plays a critical role in facilitating regional economic development efforts in communities across the U.S. and this new language could provide significant opportunities for the RV industry as it continues to grow, including modernizing and expanding RV parks and campgrounds in rural communities.
Furthermore, the new law reauthorizes the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA), which allows national parks and forests that collect recreation fees to retain and utilize a large percentage of these fees at their specific location to benefit the visitor experience. FLREA is critical for campground modernization and expansion efforts on federal lands, as it will continue to allow popular national parks and forests, that are hosting an increase in RV campers, the ability to appropriately invest camping fees into maintenance and improvements at their high-use campgrounds. It also provides critical funding for lesser-visited parks, so they can continue to have the resources they need to provide for important visitor services and outdoor recreation infrastructure.
The law also includes $16 million for the National Scenic Byways Program, supported by the RV Industry Association, which marks the first time in nearly a decade that dedicated funds have been made available for the important historic and cultural corridors that RVers travel down and visit day in and day out.
It provides $100 million for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal projects for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of significant projects on federal or tribal lands.
Finally, the bill includes important provisions focused on critical conservation and environmental needs to ensure our parks and forests can be enjoyed by many generations of RVers to come. Of note, it expands and protects the Saguaro National Park in Arizona and designates a new national park for RVers to explore in West Virginia – the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. This new designation will bring exciting outdoor recreation and camping opportunities and additional economic benefits to local rural communities.
As our nation continues to navigate the sea of uncertainty, the RV Industry Association’s government affairs team is committed to working with policy makers to promote and protect key RV industry and outdoor recreation priorities. It is encouraging to know that outdoor recreation is a bipartisan issue that time and time again brings both policy makers and the American people together to embrace the significant health, wellness, and economic benefits of the great outdoors, at a time when our country needs it the most. Economic aid for our parks, forests, and rural communities is on its way, along with so many positive developments for the iconic places we love, and our industry depends on.
For more information, contact RV Industry Association Director of Federal Affairs Chris Bornemann at email@example.com.