More than 150 outdoor recreation industry leaders gathered virtually with federal agency and conservation partners this week at Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR)’s annual forum, Partners Outdoors.
The event kicked off with Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse’s address, coinciding with the start of Great Outdoors Month and a proclamation from President Joe Biden. Coordinated and celebrated by ORR every year in June, Great Outdoors Month encourages “healthy, active” outdoor recreation through numerous local events hosted by U.S. partner organizations.
The forum featured keynote speeches by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Shannon Estenoz, principal deputy assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, in addition to Vicki Christiansen, chief of the U.S. Forest Service. More than 40 speakers from the White House, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Kampgrounds of America and others joined the conference.
The event’s first day hosted discussions regarding COVID-19 pandemic impacts, industry participation trends and recreation’s place in rebuilding rural communities. Other discussions detailed how the recent Great American Outdoors Act, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), will improve outdoor infrastructure and access.
“Now is the time to deliver recreation differently, and more importantly, to expand access to public lands and benefits for all Americans,” Vilsack said. “The visitation increase we saw in 2020 and expect to see again this year provides a great opportunity to meaningfully serve more Americans, increase the economic vitality and quality of life in communities, improve mental and physical health and connect even more people to conservation.”
Partners Outdoors highlighted building the industry’s workforce through diversified talent pipelines, developing trainings for anticipated skill gaps and boosting career pathways. The event included sessions on recreation funding’s future, including management and policy, as well as how the industry can foster increased inclusivity.
“At this year’s Partners Outdoors event, we had a lot of catching up to do after not holding one in 2020 due to the timing of the pandemic,” ORR Executive Director Jessica Turner said. “With an increase in outdoor participation across the nation, the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and full and permanent funding of LWCF, impacts of climate change, and dynamic changes in recreation demand and technology, recreation as a rural economic driver and inequities in access – this convening was as informational as it was exciting and solution-oriented.”
ORR and the recreation community celebrated 2020’s Legends Awards recipients during the event. Since 1991, Legends Awards honored federal agency employees that manage outdoor recreation on public lands and waters. The award spotlights “outstanding work” to improve outdoor recreation experiences and opportunities for the American people.
Those interested can find more information and Partners Outdoors event videos here.