Washington, D.C. — Today, 68 outdoor recreation business owners called on President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to protect America’s public lands from development and pollution, and to provide them with the funding and resources they need. The businesses called for the preservation of treasured landscapes and the continued development of outdoor recreation, one of the country’s fastest growing industries.
With the support of outdoor business owners across 24 states, from California to Maine, the letter demonstrates the tremendous value outdoor business owners place on our nation’s public lands.
“Our parks are more popular than ever. They’re where some of our families’ most unforgettable memories are formed — our first hikes, our first time camping, our first encounter with wildlife,” said Aaron Weil, preservation advocate with Environment America. “It’s no wonder outdoor businesses are standing up alongside environmental groups to call for their protection.”
There were more than 280 million recreational visits to national parks last year, with millions more exploring national forests, refuges and other public lands. Americans’ passion to enjoy the outdoors plays a vital role in spurring the country’s rapidly growing outdoor recreation economy, which generates $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs, annually.
With just a week before President Obama announces his annual budget for the year, the letter urges the president and Secretary Jewell to protect our parks by:
• Providing sufficient funding for the National Parks Service and other Interior Department budgets to give our parks the resources they need to stay open to the public and protected from pollution;
• Ensuring full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our nation’s premier conservation program; and by
• Increasing protections on public lands through national monument designations and other administrative protections.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides our public lands with critical protection from increased drilling, mining and development, by giving the National Park Service the ability to purchase privately owned land within or surrounding the park that would otherwise be developed — all without spending a single taxpayer dollar.
The National Park Service has been responsible for protecting our treasured parks for nearly 100 years. Unfortunately, they have faced drastic funding cuts over the past decade, with an operating budget in 2013 that was in today’s dollars nearly 10 percent below what it was at the start of the decade and a maintenance backlog that is approaching $12 billion.
“This is a pivotal moment. The Obama administration can protect some of the country’s last wild places, help outdoor recreation thrive, and ensure that our kids and their kids will have the same opportunities to make lasting memories in these special places,” concluded Weil. “That’s why we’re urging the administration to do everything in its power to give our public lands the resources they need and the protection they deserve.”