Washington was one of eight states on Wednesday to sign the first Confluence Accords, a bipartisan interstate agreement to commit to advancing outdoor activities and conservation, and to bolster commerce related to outdoor recreation.
The two-page document, signed at Denver’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, outlines four focus areas: economic development, conservation and stewardship, education and workforce training, and public health and wellness.
Along with Washington, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming entered into the agreement. These are the only states with offices designated for outdoor recreation, with the exception of Vermont, which has a task force representing the industry.
According to Jon Snyder, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s policy adviser for outdoor recreation and economic development, the accords were drafted after a January meeting, when the eight signees decided on best practices for “promoting outdoor recreation in a bipartisan way, across states, across agencies, across industries.”
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“With states as varied in political persuasion as Wyoming and Washington and North Carolina and Vermont, there’s a lot of compromise, a lot of back and forth to come up with something that everybody can agree on,” said Snyder.
Last year, the Outdoor Retailer trade show was pulled from Salt Lake City, where it had been held since 1996, after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and other Republicans began lobbying the Trump administration to rescind the status of Bears Ears National Monument, designated as such by President Obama in late 2016.
Utah is one of the eight states signing the Confluence Accords, which include the provision that participating states “work with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to advocate for conservation and stewardship of land, air, water, and wildlife, and for public access to them.”
“I think one of the guiding things is that, even in this age of highly polarized public policy, outdoor recreation is still a solidly bipartisan issue,” said Snyder.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s Outdoor Recreation Economy Report, recreation represents almost $900 billion in consumer spending and over 7 million jobs nationally. But as REI’s director of government and community affairs and president of the REI Foundation, Marc Berejka, notes, despite a strong outdoors economy, there’s work to be done to get Americans outdoors.
“While the outdoors recreation economy is strong and growing, we still see large segments of the American population that aren’t fully enjoying the outdoors,” said Berejka. “This is really a mechanism for helping to cultivate the outdoor recreation economy and frankly to reconnect Americans with the natural environment. We are at risk of becoming an indoor species.”
In the state of Washington, outdoor recreation and tourism is a $21 billion industry, a figure on a par with information technology and aerospace. But according to Snyder, outdoor recreation does not receive the same government support those industries do. The Confluence Accords aim to change that.
Berejka hopes that the values outlined will be part of a living document that develops over time as more states sign on, “so that state by state by state our community is increasing people’s access to the outdoors.”