RE: Alaska Office of Outdoor Recreation (SUPPORT)
Dear Governor Walker:
On behalf of Valdez Adventure Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, and the undersigned businesses and organizations of the Confluence Coalition, we write to support efforts to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation for Alaska. Alaska’s burgeoning outdoor recreation economy has the potential to drive economic growth far beyond its current impact. An office devoted to the support and coordination of the businesses, agencies, and groups that shape this sector can ensure that it develops to its full potential in the years and decades to come.
Alaska’s outdoor industry already generates $7.3 billion in consumer spending and directly supports 72,000 jobs. Last year, some 81 percent of Alaskans — the highest percentage of any state — reported taking part in outdoor recreation activities. It’s no secret Alaska’s phenomenal opportunities for outdoor adventure contribute directly to a lifestyle that attracts new visitors, residents, and businesses.
Creating an Office of Outdoor Recreation with innovative, dedicated staff will allow Alaska to capture and grow this significant area of economic activity. How do we propose accomplishing this? An office will improve the coordination of a) Alaska’s outdoor recreation industry, b) tourism, economic development, public health and education professionals, c) recreation and land management agencies and d) the public. As a central point of contact, the office can champion the strategic action needed to accelerate growth in the outdoor recreation sector.
Alaska’s many guide services, backcountry lodges, air and water taxis, retailers and cruise ship tour operators help sustain the economies of both our biggest cities and our most remote villages. Leading outdoor companies proudly headquarter their operations within our state. Alaskan innovators have created entirely new recreational activities that have spread worldwide, among them sled dog racing, packrafting and fat biking. Specialty retailers for sportsmen, snow machine and off road recreationists are ambassadors who highlight the benefits of living, working and playing in the Last Frontier every day.
These business and the many others that comprise Alaska’s outdoor recreation economy present ripe opportunities to diversify Alaska’s economy, stimulate rural economic development and sustain healthy, active lifestyles. Other states have recognized similar opportunity and created offices of outdoor recreation to ensure its effective development. To date, Colorado, Washington, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah have such offices or equivalent executive-level leadership. Other states are considering similar actions in coming months.
We appreciate the interest you have shown in advancing Alaska’s outdoor recreation industry by sending senior staffers to each of the Confluence gatherings and by helping kick off our first meeting with a greeting video in June 2016. Outdoor recreation has proven to be a sector that enjoys broad, non-partisan support. We hope you see that the creation of an Office of Outdoor Recreation will be a win for your Administration and for the future of Alaska.