Phil Ingrassia

The following column by Recreation Vehicle Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia, appearing in the April issue of RV Executive Today, reports on the progress made for key industry issues through the recently-formed Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable.

As great as business has been for the RV industry over the past few years, there are outside factors that do impact our business. That’s why one of RVDA’s key organizational values is advocating on public policy issues that affect RV dealers, and it’s why we’re excited about the formation of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR) with RVIA, NMMA, and many others.

Putting the business of outdoor recreation front and center is important in today’s political environment. In an era of shrinking federal budgets, many departments that manage public lands vital to outdoor recreation are rewarded for closing campgrounds, reducing hours of operation, and limiting access. This goes on despite the fact that recreation is the leading revenue driver for many national parks and forests.

Dealers across the country are well aware of the need to modernize campgrounds on federal lands and improve roads and bridges in national parks and forests. Allowing public-private partnerships to bring campgrounds up to today’s standards will alleviate some of the budget problems on federal lands, help revive the economy in many rural “gateway” communities, and provide more opportunities for owners of the hundreds of thousands of new RVs that are sold each year.

Earlier this year, I was talking to California dealers at the CalRVDA annual meeting – folks who are at ground zero of attempts to limit access. Closing off areas used by off-highway vehicles (OHVs) limits their use and affects dealers who sell toy haulers. ORIR has made it clear that it’s important to protect our national public lands, but it’s also important to balance protection with common sense and responsible use.

Last month, ORIR briefed Congressional representatives on some of its priorities, including:

• Prioritizing recreation-related infrastructure improvements in federal agency budgets.

• Establishing more public-private partnerships to address maintenance backlogs on public lands.

• Achieving better balance between recreation and conservation in federal agency decisions.

• Developing and deploying a digital information strategy for outdoor recreation on federal lands.

The groups coming together through ORIR represent diverse outdoor recreation interests and have found common ground in many areas when it comes to trying to change the mindset of those charged with managing our public lands.

“As an outcome of cuts in federal spending, many federal agencies are reducing or eliminating recreational opportunities,” says ORIR member and Archery Trade Association President Jay McAninch. “The ORIR member industries believe this is tragic, and are offering private investments on public lands as a way to provide all Americans with the chance to recreate outdoors – an American birthright. Our industry’s view is this is a much-needed stimulus for the federal lands, which are sorely lacking in welcoming our citizens outdoors.”

These well-attended briefings have opened doors to improved communication and partnerships between ORIR and Congressional offices that will continue to raise lawmakers’ awareness of the importance of outdoor recreation and encourage actions to improve recreational opportunities on America’s public lands and waters.

RVDA will keep members informed on these important issues moving forward and will be in touch when it’s time for you to get involved in these issues driving the future of outdoor recreation in the United States.