Testifying in Front of Congress: A New Kind of Bucket List
Story by Lindsey Davis, Wylder's Co-Founder and CEO.
Imagine an industry that contributes to the economy of every state, accounts for a larger percentage of GDP than many traditional industrial sectors, is growing faster than the overall U.S. economy and supports healthy people and healthy communities. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, the outdoor recreation economy does just that. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation accounts for over 2.2% of GDP, contributes to the economy of every state and the District of Columbia, supports 5.2 million American jobs and grew by 3.9% in 2017 – faster than the U.S. economy growth of 2.4%.
What does it all mean? We're a force, and congress is starting to pay attention.
Last week, I joined the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable to testify in front of the House Small Business Committee on behalf of the Outdoor Recreation Economy. This was a landmark moment for our industry, because it was the first time there has ever been a hearing for outdoor recreation outside of the Natural Resources Committee. For this we owe a huge round of applause to Jessica Wahl, and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), who works tirelessly in DC to unite our industry and educate decision makers on balanced policies that conserve public lands and waterways and enhance infrastructure that improves the experience and quality of life of outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.
We spent months preparing for this hearing. As a witness, I submitted a five page written testimony, describing Wylder's mission and values, and the values of our industry as a whole. We’re working hard right now to communicate that our industry is intrinsically connected to issues of sustainability and conservation. Each of us had five minutes to deliver an oral summary of our testimony in front of the committee, followed by Q&A from each representative.
The results? Chairwoman Velasquez put it best herself:
"As chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, it is my duty to give small businesses a voice in Congress and to shape policies and support industries that promote their long-term viability and success.
Often, this job requires me to look at the big picture. In this case, I believe federal lawmakers must understand the central relationship between economic prosperity and environmental stewardship. Healthy public lands along with clean air and water are the basic infrastructure of outdoor recreation, and without them small businesses in this industry cannot survive.
Despite record visits and growing interest, congressional support for public lands has been lackluster. The U.S. forest service is facing a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $5.2 billion. We can and must do better to provide support for recreational infrastructure and public lands.
Above all, perhaps the most existential threat to the outdoor recreational industry is a warming planet, erratic and worsening natural disasters, and other consequences of climate change.
So much is clear—if Congress refuses to commit necessary resources to fight climate change and supporting conservation programs, our small businesses, our planet, and our nation’s future generations will suffer.
At our hearing, Lindsey put it best when she said, “small businesses like mine are taking things into our own hands to address the health of our public lands and waters but can’t do it alone.”
Let her words be encouragement to my colleagues that taking care of our environment supports the millions of small businesses in outdoor recreation that are creating jobs and healthy communities."
I am incredibly honored for this opportunity to represent benefit corporations and women-owned businesses in our industry. Testifying in front of Congress is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m grateful to ORR and Jessica’s visionary leadership for choosing us as representative of the future of the industry.
The entire hearing was aired on CSPAN. You can find a live stream recording of it here.
As an outdoors person, there are important ways to participate in this work every week. To stay up to date, make sure you’re subscribed to Wylder’s Journal, where we send out action alerts. To stay in touch with ORR, follow them on Twitter, and to be continually educated on the policies our industry is standing for, make sure you're following Outdoor Alliance!