Not only are recreational areas great fun for riding, they also play a part in the economic infrastructure of rural America.

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Motorcycle industry representatives and outdoor recreation leaders met with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Jim Hubbard and other officials to emphasize the need for better recreation permitting processes and expanded partnerships to improve access to lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

“National forests are at the heart of recreation for Americans, and we made clear to Secretary Perdue that access to trails for motorized vehicles, addressing the maintenance backlog and investing in ways to expand and enhance recreation infrastructure are key to helping rural economies and the recreation economy thrive,” said Paul Vitrano, Motorcycle Industry Council Board chairman and senior assistant general counsel at Polaris Industries.

“We also discussed how the government shutdown has negatively affected safety and access to parks and how it has hurt gateway communities that rely on park users,” said MIC President and CEO Tim Buche. “We must change the way shutdowns are handled in the future so public lands can remain open and safe for all.”

Vitrano and Buche were among other Outdoor Recreation Roundtable leaders and recreation company CEOs who met with government officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 8. The outdoor group noted the importance of national forests to many recreational activities and highlighted the many world-class experiences provided to motorized trail enthusiasts, anglers, skiers, hikers, climbers, campers, paddlers and boaters. The recreation leaders underscored the key role national forests play in rural economies across the country and the importance of key provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that will allow rural economic development grants for recreation infrastructure in rural America.

Perdue said wildfire costs had impacted the department’s recreation efforts and thanked the recreation industry for its role in recent legislation that should control future fire costs at the USDA, and allow the Forest Service and the recreation industry to accomplish more with improved partnerships.

ORR participants also referred to positive actions already underway at the USDA, which are helpful to growing an industry that accounts for 2.2 percent of the nation’s economy and supports 4.6 million jobs. Recreation leaders also highlighted opportunities for immediate progress, including:

  • Secretarial visits to sites demonstrating USDA partnerships supporting rural communities and the importance of broadband access in these gateway areas
  • Secretarial support for innovative USFS recreation efforts that capitalize on private investments to expand and enhance recreation infrastructure, including campgrounds
  • Making the revamped recreation.gov website – and its potential for providing information on recreation opportunities – more visible
  • Addressing recreation permitting problems with electronic and simplified applications and timely processing
  • Eliminating the maintenance backlog on USFS lands, especially where it threatens recreational activity
  • Outreach to young Americans and expanded use of conservation corps

“We are committed to helping Americans enjoy recreational opportunities in our national forests,” Perdue said. “I invite you to help by recommending specific priority steps. Let’s capitalize on the fact that recreation is agnostic relative to politics, and let’s help more Americans enjoy the great outdoors.”

Additional information on topics discussed and the participants can be found here.