Let’s rebuild our outside recreation economic system

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Jacky roses
| Reno Gazette Journal

This opinion column was presented by Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada).

People come from all over the country to visit Nevada and experience our glorious public lands and waterways. Outdoor recreation provides opportunities to enjoy Nevada’s natural terrain through activities such as hiking, camping, boating, hunting, skiing, stargazing, or attending outdoor cultural events, and this industry is a major contributor to our economy and workforce. Outdoor recreation in Nevada generates over $ 5.5 billion annually and is responsible for nearly 60,000 jobs in Nevada, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. However, like many other key industries in our state, outdoor recreation and tourism have experienced pandemic hardship. As we take steps towards economic recovery, we must strengthen Nevada’s outdoor recreation and ecotourism economy for Nevadans and visitors to our state.

I recently got up close and personal with the urban outdoor recreational opportunities in northern Nevada when I visited the Rosewood Lakes Nature Study Area and spoke to the Truckee Meadows Park Foundation about the incredible work they are doing to conserve and preserve Nevada’s nature Visitors and locals alike can enjoy them for many years to come.

In the past year, outdoor recreation was a much-needed offer for countless people who want to stay active while staying safe and socially distant. But COVID-19 has presented our state’s outdoor leisure companies with new challenges. During the pandemic, people did not travel to our state as usual. With the loss of 13.7 million annual visitors, tour operators, equipment suppliers, tour guides and other businesses that rely on travelers have suffered. A recent study of the economic impact of COVID-19 found that Nevada lost about 6% of its outdoor recreational jobs during the pandemic.

And it’s not just Nevada that is feeling the tough times. The US Census Bureau, which measured the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses, found that outdoor businesses saw sharp sales declines and nearly 90% had to lay off or take leave of work. Unfortunately, outdoor recreation has gone from being one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy to one of record unemployment.

Last month I chaired a Senate subcommittee hearing that focused specifically on the Nevada and United States outdoor tourism economies, and it is clear that Congress must take action to rebuild and restore our outdoor tourism economy revitalize and get the people of Nevada back to work.

First, without sufficient human and resource resources, we will not be able to continue enjoying the outdoors or have a healthy future for outdoor tourism. We need to improve resources for land management authorities and local communities to better manage and maintain our public land, including the infrastructure and amenities that make these places accessible to the public. I’ve worked to address this issue through laws like the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill that I helped put in place and that went into effect last year. This bill finances the preservation and maintenance of our national parks, forests, waterways and recreational areas.

Second, many Nevada residents and those who come here to enjoy Nevada’s natural wonders lack the transportation to visit our parks and public areas. Lack of mobility prevents far too many Nevadans and visitors to our great state from enjoying incredible outdoor experiences and prevents our outdoor tourism economy from sustaining business. Recently I co-funded bicameral legislation – the Transit to Trails Act – that would help fund transportation projects that enable better and fairer access to parks, green spaces, and public land and bodies of water.

Third, we need to promote outdoor tourism in Nevada and the opportunities available to visitors not just locally or nationally, but worldwide. During my hearing last month, I invited Colin Robertson, the administrator of the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation, to testify on restoring the travel and tourism sector to help restore this critical economic sector to its pre-pandemic strength. Both Robertson and I agree that there is an opportunity for greater tourism collaboration between national, state and local organizations to put a well-deserved global spotlight on the outdoor recreational experiences in our communities.

Together we can help local communities get back on their feet, support small businesses in Nevada, and bring visitors to Nevada by highlighting the natural wonders of Silver State. Let’s rebuild our state’s outdoor recreation and tourism economy and show the world what Nevada has to offer.

Senator Jacky Rosen represents Nevada in the US Senate.

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