The Republican Party likes to position itself as the party of business. And yet an aspect of the party platform that was finalized at the Republican National Convention last week could have an adverse impact on a $646 billion industry. That’s the point the Outdoor Industry Association is trying to make with a letter it sent to the Republican National Committee chair last week, asking the GOP to rethink its position on public lands.

The GOP has long held the stance that the federal government should decrease its landholdings, bequeathing some to state control or selling them off to private landowners. In 2016 the party firms up that position: “Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states,” the 2016 platform reads. Elsewhere, the platform adds: “Our agenda is high on job creation, expanding opportunity and providing a better chance at life for everyone willing to work for it. Our modern approach to environmentalism is directed to that end, and it starts with dramatic change in official Washington. We propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation from the federal bureaucracy to the states…”

Rather than point out that states have not always been the greatest stewards of public lands, the OIA instead latches onto the platform’s “job creation agenda,” highlighting the 6.1 million American jobs created by outdoor recreation (almost triple what oil and gas provide, according to OIA numbers), the $80 million in federal and state tax revenue, and the almost $700 million in import tariffs paid to the U.S. annually. In short, the OIA is speaking the GOP’s language. The question is, will they listen?

Read the OIA’s entire letter to the Republican National Committee below:

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July 21, 2016
Mr. Reince Priebus
Chairman
Republican National Committee
310 First Street SE,
Washington, DC 20003

Dear Chairman Priebus,

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is the national trade association for suppliers, manufacturers and retailers in the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry. Our more than 1300 members include companies large and small that support more than 6.1 million American jobs and provide $80 million every year in federal and state tax revenue. Our members also contribute nearly $700 million every year in import tariff revenue to the U.S. Treasury, and make other significant contributions toward the goal of healthy communities and healthy economies across the United States.

The 2016 Republican Party platform states the United States is unlike any other nation on earth. We agree. This great nation was founded on an entrepreneurial spirit that encourages the pursuit of happiness and promotes ideas that can launch a business, innovate towards new technologies and products and ultimately, become successful. It is truly the American dream. The outdoor industry embodies these ideals. Our industry’s leaders design, make and sell some of the most innovative products in the world and provide good paying jobs in the U.S. as they do.

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Our businesses, however, depend on America’s public lands to be the very foundation for the use of these products by the more than 140 million Americans who recreate outside every year. Public lands belong to all Americans, including those who pursue outdoor activities in even the most remote areas of our nation’s rugged and beautiful terrain. They are an important part of our shared national history and heritage.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a champion of our public lands. He recognized that the protection of and access to this natural beauty was what made America unlike any other country in the world and that the federal government must protect these places for future generations. It was disappointing, then, to see that Roosevelt’s vision–and the many Republican leaders who’ve shared his vision since–did not translate to the GOP platform.

Though there is much on which we can agree, we disagree with the GOP’s position on transferring federal lands and waters to the states and will continue to oppose legislation and other policy initiatives at all levels of government that seek to enable or facilitate that objective.

We believe that transferring federal public lands to the states will subject many areas with recreational value to the whims of state and local administrations who may transact with the highest bidder to gain temporary financing for their state or local government. This is likely to cause irreversible harm to our nation’s shared public places, the very land and water on which our industry depends.

OIA has had great success in working closely with policymakers in both parties on a “balanced trade agenda” that balances the interests of importers with those of U.S. manufacturers. We have found a way that all parties can benefit. We believe these same principles–a balanced approach–can be applied to federal land management and the bountiful opportunities our public land and water provide all of us. The answer is not to turn these lands over to states, disguised as better management, but is instead to continue to seek improvements in the practices and processes that lead to conflict in the first place. The outdoor industry stands ready to partner with and lead those who are willing to join us in that belief.

We appreciate the work you have done as Chairman of the Republican Party and congratulate you on a successful nominating convention this week. We
look forward to continuing our great work with Republican elected officials and candidates locally, in the states, in Congress and in the White House on the many important issues we face.

Sincerely,
Alexander Boian
Senior Director of Government Affairs
Outdoor Industry Association

Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington.

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