Outdoor Community Discusses the Future of Recreation in Washington with DelBene, Murray
Nearly a dozen members of the outdoor recreation community met with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene and Senator Patty Murray to discuss the need to maintain Washington's natural heritage for the future.
Tuesday, nearly a dozen members of the outdoor recreation community met with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-D1) and Senator Patty Murray and the REI flagship store in Seattle to discuss the impact of Washington's natural heritage and the need to maintain it for future generations of Washington to enjoy.
It seems fitting that a conversation between key nonprofit organizations and local outdoor retailers would take place where many outdoor enthusiasts buy their gear. The summit also signaled the recognition of recreation as an economic powerhouse in Washington.
"Every time we meet, I feel like we're making a little bit of history," remarked Marc Berejka, government affairs director for REI.
Challenges ahead for Washington's natural treasures
The group assembled to discuss wide-ranging issues like the strength of the outdoor recreation economy, funding shortfalls and restricted agency budgets, getting the next generation outside and more.
One issue at the top of mind was the ever increasing threat of wildfires.
"The Forest Service used to spend 16 percent of its budget on fighting fires, but now it's up to 54 percent," said WTA Executive Director Karen Daubert. "That's just not sustainable."
Other members of the group also expressed concerns about young people not getting outside as often as their parents and how the National Park Service can address maintenance backlogs. But there was some celebrating to be done as well.
The outdoor recreation industry supports nearly 200,000 jobs in Washington alone and contributes more than $20 billion a year to the state economy. Additionally, people are moving to Washington to get abundant access to the outdoors. The stakeholders present noted that, no matter whether they represented paddling interests, mountain biking or hiking, their members recreate in more ways than one.
"Our customers have kayaks and hiking boots in their garages," said Bruce Furrer, president of Werner Paddles.
Prioritizing outdoor recreation in Congress
“The Pacific Northwest is home to some of our nation’s most beautiful national forests, parks, mountains and waterways. As someone who loves hiking and the outdoors, I know firsthand that the natural environment that surrounds us is what makes living in the Pacific Northwest so special,” DelBene said. “We must preserve our natural resources for future generations and support the outdoor recreation economy, which is why we held this important conversation.”
“Like so many families in Washington state, I enjoy fishing, hiking, and being outdoors -- and I am committed to conservation efforts so future generations can appreciate the splendor of America’s natural spaces,” Senator Murray said. “I will keep fighting to keep conservation and access to our country’s beautiful public lands a top priority, because protecting these natural treasures is good for future generations and good for our economy.”
Last year, Murray and DelBene helped pass legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and save the Green Mountain Lookout.