On August 30, 2023, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) introduced the Rural Outdoor Investment Act to advance economic revitalization in rural communities by investing in outdoor recreation infrastructure, planning, and business development.
“Throughout the pandemic, Americans ventured outdoors for respite and renewal. We now have a unique opportunity to harness outdoor recreation for revitalization and resilience. This legislation will help America’s rural communities invest in recreation infrastructure that will bolster economies and develop new workforce opportunities. At REI Co-op we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well-lived. By enhancing access to quality recreation opportunities, this legislation will also support the special benefits to health and wellbeing provided by time in nature,” said Taldi Harrison, Director of Government Affairs, REI Co-op.
Bennet has urged the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to consider this legislation.
“In Colorado, outdoor recreation is an economic engine for communities and a cornerstone of our Western way of life,” said Bennet. “This legislation will expand recreation options, create good-paying jobs, and support local businesses so that as demand for outdoor recreation in Colorado grows, rural economies grow too.”
This legislation would provide vital capital to rural communities across the country working to revitalize and grow their economies through the outdoor recreation industry by providing $50 million a year in recreation and economic development funding.
“New Mexico is a powerhouse in the outdoor economy, with our beautiful and wild landscapes and thriving local economies, which is why I am proud to introduce the Rural Outdoor Investment Act with Senator Bennet,” said Stansbury.
“The outdoor economy brings billions of dollars to New Mexico every year and employs over 35,000 people across the state. New Mexico is proof that investments in our outdoor economies help revitalize and create opportunity in our rural communities. This legislation centers and supports these communities, providing support for outdoor recreation infrastructure, planning assistance, and financial support for businesses. I know this bill will help support our communities and protect our outdoor spaces for generations to come,” he continued.
It would also promote collaboration between the Economic Development Administration (EDA), USDA Rural Development, and the Small Business Administration to educate communities and businesses about existing federal resources.
“Since the start of the pandemic, Americans have ventured outdoors with a renewed passion for experiencing nature – but investment for this vital economic engine has remained trapped inside,” said Schumer.
“Senate Democrats have been laser-focused on making an economy that works for everyone, including our rural communities. That is why I am proud to re-introduce the Rural Outdoor Investment Act with Senator Bennet. In business, ROI means ‘return on investment,’ and it is fitting this bill shares the same abbreviation because that is exactly what you get with this legislation: more good paying jobs, a boost to the tourism economy, and thriving small businesses. By strengthening our rural outdoor recreation economies, we could give a breath of fresh air to main streets across the country,” he added.
Specifically, the Rural Outdoor Investment Act would invest:
- $30 million for public works through EDA. This would fund necessary infrastructure improvements from signage, to boat ramps, to new trails;
- $5 million for planning grants through EDA for communities to create recreation economy plans that optimize their natural places including marketing, branding, business development, fundraising, and tourism management;
- $2.5 million in university partnerships to promote place-based research, education, and technical assistance to local stakeholders and businesses for this high growth sector; and
- $12.5 million for the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities grants for Main Street revitalization through outdoor recreation.
“Colorado is home to world-class outdoors and unique public lands that offer endless opportunities for adventure. I applaud Senator Bennet’s introduction of The Rural Outdoor Investment Act, which would create new resources for Colorado communities to grow their economies and ensure the outdoor recreation industry continues to succeed. As Colorado’s outdoor economy continues to grow, we must find innovative ways to uplift small businesses, create new jobs, and protect Colorado’s public lands,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
“This legislation will provide crucial funding to boost our rural communities through strategic investments in outdoor recreation. With substantial resources allocated annually for infrastructure, planning, and business assistance, we can create local jobs, boost our economy, and provide a sustainable outdoor experience that meets the unique needs of our community. Let’s seize this opportunity to revitalize our region and preserve our natural treasures for future generations,” said the Larimer Board of County Commissioners.
“NW Colorado communities and their economies benefit greatly from the wide range of outdoor recreation including hiking, biking, hunting and many other outdoor activities. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act aims to help further diversify and strengthen our economy in Craig and Moffat County. Craig and Moffat County Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically supports this legislation,” said Jennifer Holloway, Executive Director, Craig Chamber of Commerce and Moffat County Visitor Center.
“Visit Moffat County / Moffat County Tourism Association enthusiastically supports the Rural Outdoor Investment Act legislation. Craig, Colorado and the surrounding region has world class topography that would be perfect for new outdoor recreation opportunities. Planning and proper management of these opportunities would be highly beneficial to Moffat County citizens and visitors alike,” said Tom Kleinschnitz, Director, Visit Moffat County.
“Rural communities across the country, especially those that have suffered a long history of the unpredictable boom and bust cycles of extraction, have seized the opportunity to leverage the outdoor recreation industry as the key economic driver in their cities and towns to build sustainable growth and provide durable jobs. A successful outdoor recreation economy doesn’t happen by accident. It thrives on investments in trail infrastructure, riverfront projects, public lands, parks, and walkable and bikeable pathways to our schools and businesses. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act is an important piece of legislation that will provide funding to help these communities invest in and grow their local economies. Furthermore, the recreation economy those investments help create is defined by more than jobs and economic growth; it brings a quality of life that residents can enjoy every day, and that attracts young families and growing companies who strengthen and diversify our rural economies. The outdoor recreation economy is a powerhouse economic driver that sustains rural communities,” said Sarah Shrader, Owner and Co-Founder, Bonsai Design and President, Outdoor Recreation Coalition of the Grand Valley.
“As evidenced by the hundreds of rural communities who have applied for federal technical assistance to support economic development through outdoor recreation in recent years, as well as the unprecedented numbers of Americans flocking to the outdoors, we have an outstanding opportunity to meet the moment through the Rural Outdoor Investment Act,” said Jessica Wahl Turner, President, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The ROI Act is aptly named as it will help bring rural communities a big return on outdoor recreation investments in the form of social, economic, and environmental benefits for locals and visitors alike. We applaud Senators Bennet, Schumer, and Congresswoman Stansbury for introducing this commonsense and essential legislation that will support our nation’s rural communities and residents.”
“We at The Conservation Alliance are proud to support Senator Bennet and Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s Rural Outdoor Investment Act. Many of our 270+ members rely on access to the outdoors and outdoor infrastructure for success, and this piece of legislation is an important step forward for the wellbeing of our industry, recreationists, and communities. The ROI Act would provide an infusion of support for small communities as they continue to develop resilient, vibrant ecosystems anchored by entrepreneurialism and recreation opportunities. The strategic investments proposed in the bill will move the needle on those priorities that matter most to our members, and will surely help communities across the nation succeed in their transition toward more modern and sustainable economies,” said Shoren Brown, VP of Public Affairs, The Conservation Alliance.
“The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will deliver much-needed funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure in rural communities at a time when a historic number of Americans are rediscovering their passion for getting outdoors. We applaud Senator Schumer for leading the charge to protect and expand outdoor recreation opportunities and look forward to working with him to pass this vital measure,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, President, National Marine Manufacturers Association.
“Recreational fishing is a major economic driver in rural communities, and the Rural Outdoor Investment Act will help expand recreational opportunities while supporting local businesses and infrastructure. Promoting outdoor recreation is an important step in the revitalization of rural America,” said Glenn Hughes, President, American Sportfishing Association.
“RV owners love to take the road less traveled. The ROI Act will help rural communities further develop their capacity to provide support for outdoor recreation and the growing RV customer base, while improving job opportunities across America,” said Phil Ingrassia, President, National RV Dealers Association.
“Many rural communities have found outdoor recreation to be a positive, sustainable way to support and grow their economies. Some have even reinvented their economies through outdoor recreation, especially in places that attract motorcyclists, dirt bike riders, ATV riders, and side-by-side drivers. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will help these communities better plan for expansion through infrastructure, management, and marketing, while creating more accessibility and better experiences for visitors. It’s a win-win as it helps American communities and more Americans discover the joys and health benefits of the outdoors. A big thanks to Senators Michael Bennet, Chuck Schumer, and Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury for their leadership in the ROI Act,” said Erik Pritchard, President and CEO, Motorcycle Industry Council, Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America.
“America Outdoors is pleased to support the Rural Outdoor Investment Act. Outfitters welcome an increased focus on planning for outdoor recreation in rural communities, on partnership for research and education, and on maintaining outdoor recreation facilities. Repairing critical recreation infrastructure will significantly help outfitters facilitate access to the great outdoors for folks from all walks of life,” said Aaron Bannon, Executive Director, America Outdoors.
“As the outdoor recreation economy continues to grow and send visitors further afield, it’s important to make sure the benefits of that growth are shared throughout our nation’s rural communities. This will require thoughtful planning and management tools to adapt to increasing visitation. With investments like ROI, better infrastructure and planning can lead to better access, and more remote tracts of land can be enjoyed by all Americans. As an organization devoted to providing that access and ensuring that it benefits the surrounding communities, we applaud the introduction of this bill,” said Dan Mahoney, Public Policy Specialist, American Prairie.
“Snowmobiling is at the heart of winter outdoor recreation for rural communities in the northern US. We support the ROI Act because investments in trail infrastructure strengthen winter tourism economies and open the exciting world of snowmobiling to more Americans,” said Ed Klim, President, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.
“The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will create common-sense changes to pre-existing programs and direct money to communities to help bolster and grow their outdoor recreation economies. From additional funding to improve boat ramps to money aimed at helping communities’ market their recreational offerings, this bill will benefit the recreational boating industry, boaters and anglers, and rural communities alike,” said Jeff Strong, Chairman, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas Board and President, Strong’s Marine, Mattituck, N.Y.
“NFRA strongly supports the ROI Act because it astutely recognizes that we need good infrastructure in place to create and sustain great outdoor recreational opportunities. And the return on the investment is manyfold given that outdoor recreation not only benefits rural economies as well as our national economy, it benefits the life of each person who recreates outdoors both physically and mentally. NFRA thanks Senators Bennet, Schumer and Congresswoman Stansbury for their introduction of this tremendously beneficial legislation,” said Marily Reese, Executive Director, National Forest Recreation Association.
“Demand for outdoor recreation is only growing, and NSAA supports the Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act and its emphasis on much needed investments in infrastructure, planning, and business assistance. This measure complements Senator Bennet’s SHRED Act by making recreation a priority, boosting rural economies, and improving the recreation experience for all,” said Geraldine Link, Director of Public Policy, National Ski Areas Association.
“In rural areas, the $862 billion outdoor recreation industry and economic growth are closely connected. This legislation aims to reinforce this connection by investing over $50 million annually in outdoor recreation infrastructure, new outdoor recreation experiences, and assistance for emerging businesses. Improved infrastructure also means better access to the outdoors for everyone, regardless of location. We applaud Senators Chuck Schumer and Michael Bennet for leading this effort and for their commitment to the outdoor industry and rural communities across the nation,” said Kent Ebersole, President, Outdoor Industry Association.
“At Rivian, we build products that enable adventures and encourage exploration of the outdoors. As members of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and its associated Together Outdoors coalition, we recognize the economic and health benefits outdoor recreation brings to rural communities. Upgrading recreation infrastructure around the country will help rural communities maximize these benefits and prepare for a more sustainable and equitable economic future. We thank Senator Bennet, Congresswoman Stansbury, and the other lead sponsors for seeing this too, and for introducing the Rural Outdoor Investment (ROI) Act to accelerate this effort,” said Dan West, Director of Public Policy, Rivian.
“Over the past few years there has been a fundamental change in the way Americans travel, vacation, and live as more people turn to the outdoors and outdoor recreation for not only the enjoyment it brings but also the mental and physical health benefits. This resurgence of the great outdoors provides an excellent opportunity for economic growth in rural communities, many of which have recreation assets like campgrounds, trails, lakes, and rivers. The Rural Outdoor Investment Act will provide vital funding to help these communities grow through smart investment in outdoor infrastructure and related businesses. As more and more RVers hit the road, this legislation will improve not only their experiences, but also the rural communities making investments in recreation infrastructure,” said Jason Rano, Vice President of Government Affairs, RV Industry Association.
“Strategic investment in outdoor recreation planning, infrastructure, and business will help rural communities to grow resilience and provide an economic foundation to face the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Rural communities understand the ecosystem services value of outdoor recreation, and these critical and timely investments will help create career pathways, grow prosperity, enhance public health, and improve quality of life in rural communities across the country,” said Rachel Franchina, Executive Director, Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals.
This legislation is supported by Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, National Association of Counties, REI, National Wildlife Federation, Outdoor Industry Association, Conservation Alliance, Western Spirit Cycling, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals, National Marine Manufacturers Association, RV Industry, Association, National Ski Areas Association, and National RV Dealers Association.
The text of the bill is available HERE.
A summary of the bill is available HERE.