The Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance recently held its annual membership meeting. The virtual session featured comments from the state’s at-large Congressman who talked about federal pandemic support and the recently passed Great American Outdoors Act.
The Outdoor Business Alliance is a group of 70 businesses and organizations representing outdoor recreation businesses across Vermont. An October report the group submitted to the Governor’s office notes that in May most businesses in the sector “...had experienced full or partial closure, significant losses in revenue, increased costs due to precautionary measures, and shifts in workforce, supply chain and operations.” Even with those difficulties amid the pandemic the report adds: “Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy enters fall in a much stronger financial position.”
During their November meeting, Democratic Congressman Peter Welch told the alliance he is getting through the pandemic by enjoying Vermont’s outdoor opportunities and understands the industry has made enormous adjustments under immense financial pressure. “One of the things that is accessible and available to all of us is being outdoors and doing things outdoors. And there’s so many different kinds of activities and then, oh by the way, there’s real economic benefits to the work that you do. In Vermont I understand from the last audit that we had it was about 20,000 jobs and about $1.7 Billion. And the need for us to be able to spend more time outdoors is greater now than ever compared with pre-COVID.”
The Great American Outdoors Act was signed by President Trump and became law on August 4th. It establishes a fund to support deferred maintenance projects on national park and federal lands. It also permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Welch said it passed because of close election races. “We had gotten it through the House with a pretty solid vote. It’s bipartisan support. And it was in the Senate and Mitch McConnell had no interest in passing anything that we sent over. But two Senators who were in tight elections called Trump and said they had to have this bill passed. And that political necessity is what persuaded Trump to persuade Mitch McConnell to pass a good piece of legislation. But it also turns out that America won because this long sought goal of permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation program in the Great American Outdoors Act got passed.”
Welch answered a number of questions from alliance members. Vermont Sports and Vermont Ski And Ride Editor Lisa Gosselin asked about the congressman’s next outdoor or environmental priority. “What would be your next dream initiative in terms of helping the outdoor recreation industry?”
Welch: “My dream initiative actually is that we start addressing climate change in a very very serious way. You know we can create a stronger economy if we address the climate change issues. We had passed the Waxman-Markey Climate Change bill like 10 years ago. It didn’t get through the Senate. Our goal in that was to have 80% carbon reduction by 2050. Now we have a chance with the Biden Administration. You know that’ll have a real positive impact for what you do.”