Small business owners depend on the great outdoors

In the United States, we enjoy a $646 billion outdoor recreation industry. In every part of the country, during ever part of the year, small business owners like myself rely on the consistent American tradition of enjoying the outdoors. That’s why I joined with 21 other independent outdoor gear sales companies in the outdoor recreation business to urge Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell and the Obama administration to advance policies that bring energy development into balance with other essential uses of our public lands.

The federal government recently predicted that the U.S. will be producing more oil and gas by the end of 2013 than any other nation on earth.  That is a pretty stunning statistic.  The U.S. has rapidly become a giant in domestic energy production, which as a businessman who spends a lot of time on the road, I can appreciate by way of more stable energy prices.

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But for my customers and me, there is also concern that the rapid expansion in energy development will have a negative impact on recreational opportunities on public lands.  I am a small business owner based in Portland, Oregon running an independent outdoor apparel and gear shop. The continued growth and success of my business depends on my customers’ access to recreational opportunities.  As new technologies have unlocked vast tracts of oil and gas across the country, it has become more and more common for energy development and outdoor recreation to come into conflict.

Energy development and outdoor recreation are not mutually exclusive.  Energy development can be done responsibly and in the right places.  But as the U.S. becomes a global leader in domestic energy production, can’t we also afford to guarantee recreational access to our public lands? In fact, don’t we have an obligation to do so? Whether it’s access to trails, wildlife, hunting or fishing, outdoor recreation is just as important to the average American as the oil and gas beneath—I think we learned that lesson during the recent government shutdown.

So far under the current Administration, more than two and a half times as many acres have been made available for oil and gas development as have been set aside for recreational activities. The past Congress was the first since World War II not to protect a single new acre of public land.  That is simply not what the American people want, and if that imbalance continues, it will begin to have a serious impact not only on the bottom line of my small business, but to and many others as well. 

It’s time to get back on track and do more to protect and conserve public lands. Small business owners across the country are depending on it. 

Powell is a principal at the Sherpa Group Two, an independent outdoor gear sales company.