The RV Industry Association, along with key leaders of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), met with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky to discuss the essential role played by the department – notably the USDA Forest Service – in providing diverse and high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities and growing the outdoor recreation economy, especially in rural communities.

As reported in RV Industry Association News and Insights, the Forest Service provides a wide range of developed-site and dispersed recreation on 193 million acres of forests and grasslands and was described as vital to the health of the outdoor recreation industry by ORR Chairman Thom Dammrich, president of the National National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). ORR Vice Chairman Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the RV Industry Association, reminded the Deputy Secretary that outdoor recreation comprised 2% of the nation’s GDP and was the nation’s 15th largest industry.

The recreation industry representatives discussed increasing the use of public-private partnerships to support outdoor recreation, including the modernizing and expanding of recreation facilities, improving trails and expanding connectivity. The leaders noted these efforts would help advance Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s pursuit of rural prosperity.

The Deputy Secretary noted the department’s role as “lucky trustees of some of the most special places in the country.” He and other senior USDA officials including Acting Deputy Under Secretary Daniel J. Jiron cheered the role of partnerships including with recreation businesses and clubs and called for the modernization of national forest campgrounds. “You are important partners,” the Deputy Secretary said, “and we want you to be even more important partners.”

“The RV Industry Association applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture for recognizing the important role of RV camping and outdoor recreation on and around US Forest Service lands,” said RV Industry Association Senior Manager of Government Affairs Chris Bornemann. “RV camping provides significant economic benefits to federal agencies and nearby rural communities. We’re very excited to continue to collaborate with our federal partners to modernize and expand camping opportunities, increase recreational access and to improve critical infrastructure and visitor services on federal lands.”  

The group encouraged the department to showcase and expand its key recreation-related successes like the revamped www.recreation.gov, facilitation of year-round recreation at ski resorts operating on national forests, use of innovative financial strategies, and more. The deputy secretary urged the recreation industry to help his department “better understand today’s and tomorrow’s recreation visitors to the national forests.” ORR and USDA agreed to regularly discuss opportunities for collaborative efforts.

Other key topics covered during the discussion included: controlling wildfire costs to protect the Forest Service’s broad stewardship mission; utilizing pilot projects to cut through red tape and promote innovation; and developing a new recreation strategy for the agency.

The USDA meeting was to include USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia and personally active in achieving a “wildfire fix” this spring which should allow the Forest Service to curtail its borrowing of recreation funds to fight fires and return to a more robust recreation mission. The secretary’s participation was precluded by his participation in a White House event announcing tariff-related assistance to the nation’s farmers. Secretary Perdue did join the recreation leaders briefly at the end of the meeting.

For more information on the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, click here.