Brian McGuinn

Brian McGuinn

The following column by Brian McGuinn, business development director for Southeast Publications, appears on the company’s site here.

It’s official, we have a new Congress, Senate and President of the United States. With these come new thoughts on international policy and how to grow our economy.

I’ve seen quite a few presidents come and go in my ripe age of 40.  Heck, I’m old enough to remember Reagan’s address to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Political moments like that is what Americans think about, leaders of superpowers coming together and hashing out decades of strife between the two.

Seldom will you hear about the subtle losses or potential legislative actions that affect the outdoor recreation industry. Most people, and rightfully so, are more interested in their personal economy and safety from those entities that would seek to do harm. My contention is you can’t care about issues you don’t know about, and outdoor recreation legislation is seldom covered in mainstream media.

I am an American that enjoys outdoor recreation. I am not writing for any political affiliation and the comments listed here specifically relate to what I feel could happen, not what will or should happen.

Did you hear about the rule change in Congress’s first day of sessions that could transfer federal lands to states without having to offset the value of the land by making cuts or generating revenues elsewhere?

Essentially, land that was purchased by all Americans could basically be given to the states, which could decide to open drilling, mining or logging. We’re talking about lands currently used for hiking, biking, picnicking, bird watching, places where one can go to reflect on the beautiful planet we live on or spend quality time connecting with family in a deep and meaningful way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for energy independence and providing more job opportunities to Americans, but we all paid for these lands. All of us. For me, I might want to visit federal lands in a state I’ve never been to before. As for my tax contribution for these lands, I think the untouched experience would suit me better than the energy or lumber it would provide for my family. What about you?

Did you know that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is set to expire in 2018? Essentially, it’s funded through offshore drilling taxes that are used to safeguard open spaces to the public. It has funded more than 41,000 state and local park projects, from historic sites to cultural landmarks to backcountry escapes.

If you’re a private campground and are still wondering why this is important, realize that most people who stay with you do so because they want to experience the culture, history, wildlife and beautiful vistas that are unique to your place in this world. If these places are not maintained, tourism will plummet and so will your sales.

On a side note, private campgrounds that are near a state park should firm up their relationship with that park. I know of many state parks that are sending overflow, or park customers with units too large to be accommodated, to nearby private campgrounds. I have also heard of privately-held campgrounds recommending their state park’s beautiful facilities to their customers.

Back to the point, the LWCF is about to expire, but luckily for all of us, Democrat Raul Grijalva from Arizona and Republican Patrick Meehan from Pennsylvania already launched a bipartisan effort to reauthorize and fully fund the LWCF. I love it when we can work together.

How do you protect 400 million acres of public land in one office? Appoint a good Secretary of the Interior.

Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke is in the confirmation process and he will oversee the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. This is great news because Zinke has been a strong advocate for the LWCF and public lands in his home state.

Speaking of states, do you know what’s going on in yours?

Republicans flipped several chambers including the Iowa State Senate, Kentucky House of Representatives and Minnesota State Senate. Democrats took over the Nevada State Senate and Assembly. They also took over the New Mexico House and the Alaska House. These changes will most likely adjust the direction of legislation within these states.

It’s up to you to try to inform yourself of what this means for your business and for your love of outdoor recreation.

You need to join ARVC at both the federal and local state association level.  These people work tirelessly to inform their members of changes that happen both on the national level and at their state and even local levels. Their strength is in numbers and your voice will be amplified by the collective membership which often includes hundreds of campgrounds.

We are all Americans and we all live in a democratically-elected republic. The word “democracy” is Greek, and made up of several elements. “Demos” in Greek means people or neighborhood. “Kratos” means power and “Arche” means being first. To me, this means that in our neighborhood, if we come together as people before politics, we can be powerful. After all, we’ve elected these officials to represent us and our interests.

Our neighborhood is outdoor recreation, if each of us does his or her part learning about potentially harmful legislation both broadly and within our immediate communities, we can better identify potential solutions to issues without having to sacrifice natural land or compromise the integrity of our industry.

Our industry is booming right now so let’s work together to help form the voice that protects places where parents can teach their children the benefits of camping because without them, camping has no future.