Congress can do better when it comes to protecting our great outdoors

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Great Outdoors America Week is a gathering of people of all ages and from every walk of life.The goal is to let our decision makers in Washington, D.C. know that we care about, and depend upon, America’s great outdoors. We are joining outdoor advocates from across the country to show our support for America’s wild places and green spaces, and the growing need to reconnect Americans with the outdoors.
 
Our two companies alone employ thousands of Americans, demonstrating why conservation policy is so important to the economy.
 
A recent survey by Colorado College focusing on the attitudes of voters in six Western states concludes that “national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of their state’s economy.”  The report found that roughly 85 percent of participants in the survey say that public lands are vital to their local economy.
 
This trend is not restricted to the West, but prevails throughout the country. Last week, the Outdoor Industry Association released “The Outdoor Recreation Economy,” a study showing that Americans spend $645 billion annually on outdoor recreation. That impressive number represents more than mere dollars. According to the same study, outdoor recreation supports 6.1 million jobs nationwide, nearly triple the number supported by the oil and gas industries. It means jobs in communities throughout the U.S.: Communities like Portland, Oregon and Red Wing, Minnesota where our companies are based; and smaller communities surrounded by public lands and open space that are gateways to outdoor recreation.
 
Wherever there are great natural landscapes and expansive stretches of wilderness rich in wildlife, there are hikers, backpackers, runners, photographers, hunters, anglers and many other outdoor recreationists.  All this activity translates into retail sales, service jobs, and greater tourism revenue. We are participating in Great Outdoors America Week to do our part to help protect the goose that lays this golden egg.
 
And there is plenty of work to be done. As you read this, a barrage of anti-conservation bills threaten the very lands upon which the outdoor industry depends. The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act (H.R. 1581/S.1087), the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (H.R.4089/S. 2066) and the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505) all threaten to giveaway, sell-off or open our lands and waters to development.
 
At the same time, dozens of conservation bills that would protect millions of acres of federal land and safeguard hundreds of mile of rivers are stuck in Congressional committees. Most of these bills have broad support on the local level, and many of them enjoy bi-partisan support in Congress. Our customers benefit when we protect wilderness and wild rivers. If Congressional leaders want to support job creation, they should move the Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River bills that are languishing in committees.
 
Great Outdoors America week is an important gathering of people from all over the country coming together to let our leaders know how much we care about America’s great outdoors. These lands and waters are our – and our customers’ – natural playgrounds. We need to protect them for future generations, and for the future of our national economy.

Enlow is the core and community manager at KEEN, Inc. and Miller is the national sales manager at Vasque.