04.24.20

Colorado Delegation Members Urge Congressional Leadership to Support Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Businesses, Reinvest in Public Lands in Upcoming Legislation

Lawmakers urge support for Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act and fee waivers for businesses operating on public lands

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Joe Neguse (D-CO), and Jason Crow (D-CO) called on Senate and House Leadership to support the nation’s outdoor economy in future economic relief legislation. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the lawmakers wrote that Congress should consider Gardner’s bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act and waive fees for businesses operating on public lands in future COVID-19-related legislation to support the outdoor economy.

“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local governments, land management agencies, and outdoor businesses are facing difficult decisions. Many businesses operating on public lands, such as ski areas, outfitter and guide operations, and concessionaires, have already closed, limited visitors, and lost revenue. At the same time, counties and local governments are required to limit tourists and redirect local resources to fighting COVID-19,” the members wrote.

To mitigate the damage to the outdoor economy and to enable a quick recovery, Gardner and his colleagues requested the congressional leaders consider fee waivers and additional flexibility for businesses operating on public lands. They also requested supplemental funding for roads, trails, and other recreation infrastructure needs to ensure fee waivers or lost revenues do not undercut local government or agency budgets. Gardner and his colleagues also pushed to include the Great American Outdoors Act to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provide funding to address the maintenance backlogs across our public lands in upcoming legislation. Finally, they pressed Congressional leadership for additional resources to mitigate future disasters, including to respond to and recover from wildfires during the ongoing pandemic.

The outdoor economy supports 5.2 million jobs nationwide and was seeing strong growth prior to COVID-19 pandemic, but now faces daunting challenges as it looks to reopen. 

“With COVID-19 stressing local and county budgets even more than normal, local governments would benefit from a federal funding infusion for our public lands. We urge you to reinvest in our recreation infrastructure, including roads, trails and other facilities, to support Colorado communities and sustain the national outdoor economy for years to come,” continued the members.

The text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy:

We write to request that future economic relief and stimulus legislation aimed at positioning the economy to ramp up include support for our country’s outdoor economy. The outdoor recreation industry supports 5.2 million jobs across the country and contributes 2.2 percent to our national gross domestic product, and the last few years it has grown faster than the economy as a whole. The continued success of the outdoor industry is closely tied to our public lands and waters, including federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the United States Department of the Interior (DOI), and the success of local, county and state governments.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local governments, land management agencies, and outdoor businesses are facing difficult decisions. Many businesses operating on public lands, such as ski areas, outfitter and guide operations, and concessionaires, have already closed, limited visitors, and lost revenue. At the same time, counties and local governments are required to limit tourists and redirect local resources to fighting COVID-19. Even before this pandemic, counties were forced to spend local dollars on law enforcement, seasonal rangers, and wildfire mitigation on federal lands. With COVID-19 stressing local and county budgets even more than normal, local governments would benefit from a federal funding infusion for our public lands. We urge you to reinvest in our recreation infrastructure, including roads, trails and other facilities, to support Colorado communities and sustain the national outdoor economy for years to come.

While there is much work in the months ahead, we request that you consider the following in future economic packages:

  • Fee Waivers for special use permit holders such as ski areas, outfitters and guides, campground and marina operators, and other small businesses to sustain their businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. Waivers would help maintain cash flows during this time, as most businesses should be starting their busy months, and encourage businesses to retain staff to enable a quick recovery when the pandemic ends.
  • Flexibility for Permit Holders which could include deferrals, delays, contract extensions, and other measures, as appropriate, to mitigate the loss of business due to steps taken to address COVID-19.
  • Recreation Infrastructure including supplemental funding for recreation, roads, trails, and related infrastructure accounts at the USFS and DOI to ensure that any fee waivers or lost revenues do not undercut local government or agency budgets. Additionally, the inclusion of S.3422, the Great American Outdoors Act would be a significant investment in the outdoor recreation economy and benefit states and local communities throughout the nation.
  • Disaster Prevention and Mitigation by investing in Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration, Watershed Health, Hazardous Fuels, and other programs at the USFS and DOI that reduce fire risk, while ensuring that resources are available for wildfire response and post-fire recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to working with you on these priorities.

###