Does federal recreational economy bill benefit boaters?
REC Act clears House of Representatives, could head to White House if parallel Senate bill passes.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill proposing to assess the impact of outdoor recreational activities on job creation and consumer spending recently earned enough votes to get out of the House of Representatives. Should this and a parallel bill in the Senate ultimately be signed into law by the president, legislators hope the information collected by the assessment could result in additional resources made available for outdoor activities such as recreational boating.
The Recreational Economic Contributions (REC) Act (H.R. 4665) would require the federal government to measure how outdoor activities benefit jobs and the economy. It could be one of the last bills ever signed into law by Pres. Barack Obama.
Legislators are calling for a two-year analysis of recreational economic activity, the results of which could, down the line, help the craft policies benefiting recreational boating and other outdoor activities.
“The study will help document the full value and contributions of outdoor recreation to the American economy and present detailed and defensible data to inform decision making, improving governance and long-term management of public lands and waters,” U.S. Department of Interior staff stated about the two-year analysis.
Reps. Don Beyer (D-Virginia), Dave Reichert (R-Washington), Peter Welch (D-Vermont) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) introduced the REC Act in the House.
Bayer said the legislation would allow the federal government to obtain valuable information. The federal government would collect statistical data on compensation, employment, production and other factors in an attempt to determine the economic impact of recreational activities.
“This data is critical to crafting sound environmental and recreational policies that support the $646 billion outdoor economy,” Beyer said.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) said the REC Act would quantify “the true size of the outdoor economy, including recreational boating.”
“The REC Act directs the Secretary of Commerce, through the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), to ‘conduct an assessment and analysis of the outdoor recreation economy of the United States,’” NMMA staff said in a published statement. “A temporary pilot program was enacted by the Secretary of the Interior in April, so Congress’s action was needed to make sure that the outdoor economy – and its estimated 6 million jobs and $646 billion in economic activity – receives official government recognition for years to come.”
In September the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) published its 2016 “Outdoor Participation Report” and found about 142 million Americans – roughly 48 percent of the national population – engaged in some form of recreational activity last year. About 909,000 people participated in sailing activities and more than 2.2 million people dropped a fishing line into the water during the 2015 calendar year, according to the OIA report.
Kayak fishing drew the fewest number of participants in 2015 – about 295,000 people hopped aboard a kayak to catch fish.
OIA staff called the passage of the REC Act in the House of Representatives “a major legislative victory.”
“The $646 billion outdoor recreation economy—and the 6.1 million jobs it supports—is a major economic driver in communities across the United States and should be counted just like any other major industry,” OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts said.
Legislative efforts to analyze the economic impact of outdoor recreational activity coincided with the introduction of a pilot program by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to analyze the role of the outdoor industry in our economy.
“By producing credible data on the tangible economic benefits of public lands, we can help the public and Members of Congress better understand the benefits of investing in them,” Jewell said when she introduced the initiative during a talk at the National Geographic in April. “Industry estimates show that consumer spending for outdoor recreation is greater than household utilities and pharmaceuticals combined – and yet the federal government has never fully recognized or quantified these benefits. This project is the start of a multi-year effort to count these contributions in a comprehensive and impartial way.”
The Secretary of Commerce will submit its findings in a report to Congress two years after the REC Act becomes law.
Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) introduced the Senate version of the REC Act (S. 2219).