Assembly approves bill to create Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation

Proposal aims to promote job growth and recreational activities such as fishing and kayaking.

SACRAMENTO — Prospects of what some might consider an added layer of bureaucracy took one step forward on May 30, as California’s Assembly members unanimously approved Assembly Bill 1918 (AB 1918). The bill proposes to establish an Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation. AB 1918, which was proposed by Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, D-El Centro, is now being considered in the State Senate; the bill’s first stop is the upper house’s Committee on Rules. A recently published legislative analysis of AB 1918 stated the office, if ultimately created, would achieve four goals: – Promote economic development and job growth in California’s outdoor recreation economy – Develop data on the effects of outdoor recreation in California – Recommend and coordinate policies to increase and enhance recreational activities, and – Operate as the “central point of contact for the outdoor recreation industry in California.” The office would also have an advisory board “to provide advice, expertise, support and service,” according to the Assembly’s most recent legislative analysis. Members of the advisory board would hail from nonprofit organizations, tourism boards, businesses offering outdoor recreational goods or services, government agencies engaged in land management and state agencies. Other states have similar offices or agencies already in place, according to a statement issued by Garcia’s office in April. “Despite the fact California by far holds the largest outdoor recreation economy in the nation, eight other states have already established similar offices of outdoor recreation or state-level positions dedicated to this same purpose,” the statement issued by Garcia’s office stated. “The office [proposed in AB 1918] envisioned by this measure will work in conjunction with the diverse public, private, and nonprofit partners to help make our state’s programs and policies more relevant to the experiences that people are having and want to have in the outdoors.” California’s outdoor recreation industry and participation, according to AB 1918, contributes about $92 billion to the state’s economy while also supporting 691,000 jobs. “California’s outdoor recreation economy is the largest in the nation,” language of AB 1918 stated. “Encouraging sustainable recreation practices will help grow the economic development potential of the outdoor recreation economy and enable wise public lands management decisions.” Statistics cited in the Assembly’s most recent legislative analysis were slightly different. “According to the proponents, California’s outdoor recreation economy is the largest in the United States. It generates [more than] $85 billion in annual consumer spending and creates more than 730,000 direct jobs,” the Assembly legislative analysis, which was published on May 26, stated. “Sales of consumer goods, travel and tourism expenses, and the cost of participating in outdoor recreational activities all generate this spending that likewise contributes significantly to federal, state and local tax revenues.” The legislative analysis went on to explain why the Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation is needed. “Despite the size and impact of the outdoor recreation economy in California, there is no single state-level office or governmental body that has the visibility and authority necessary to promote and advance the sector and harness its impact to improve outdoor recreation opportunities in the state,” the May 26 legislative analysis stated. “Additionally, as California’s population continues to grow and diversify, there is an opportunity to actively engage the outdoor recreation industry to continue and grow its leadership on issues related to stewardship of natural resources and connecting Californians, especially those from diverse communities, to the outdoors.” Garcia’s proposal was approved by a 75-0 vote (with three votes not recorded). Both houses of the legislature must support the bill before moving forward to the governor’s desk for approval or veto. Proposition 68, a ballot initiative on the June 5 ballot, could provide support to the Office of Sustainable Outdoor Recreation, if created. The proposition, which was approved by voters, will authorize $4.1 billion in general obligation bonds climate adaptation, flood protection, natural resources protection, parks and water quality.

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