Big Tent Outdoor Coalition inspires change in Olympia
Nearly three dozen Washington for-profit, non-profit, and government organizations, known as The Big Tent Outdoor Coalition (BTOC), held a series of events on February 13, in the lobby of the Natural Resources Building in Olympia to increase awareness of the importance of outdoor recreation in the state’s economy and quality of life.
Governor Jay Inslee, several legislators and state agency leaders spoke with the assembled crowd and announced a new executive order establishing a blue ribbon task force. The 15-member task force’s ultimate goal is to investigate ways the government can work with the private sector to help this underappreciated segment of the state economy. Recommendations will be submitted to the governor and legislature in September.
"Outdoor recreation is an underappreciated part of our economy," Governor Inslee explained. "We need to look at ways that we can support and expand this industry to create jobs, increase economic opportunity, and support our rural communities."
Many of these organizations, like Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA) and Back County Horsemen, experienced a gradual dawning of awareness that in order to get anywhere, we needed to begin to work together. According to a 2012 Outdoor Industry Association study, Consumers annually spend $22.5 billion on outdoor recreation gear and activities, which supports 227,000 jobs and generates $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenues. “This is a great beginning for the outdoor industry, which provides a significant source of economic activity in the state.” says WSA Director of Government Affairs Mike Racine.
Beside the economic impact, the state’s businesses use the outdoors as an enticing attraction. Companies realize outdoor adventures play a key role in quality of life and in recruiting and retaining employees. However, the governor and the coalition know our outdoor world faces many real challenges in the coming years. Budget cuts have affected our national parks and many factors could permanently ruin this amazing resource.
Tom Bugert serves at Outreach Director for the Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which represents 280 members of business leaders, small business owners, farmers, and non-profits all across Washington State. Founded in 1989, the coalition leverages public funds for new local and state parks, wildlife habitats, and farmland preservation. “One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing the look in the eyes of these people [we help],” Bugert explains with enthusiasm. “To see them realize their dream accomplishment is awesome!”