WASHINGTON — May 6, 2019 — The USDA Forest Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Northern Border Regional Commission will offer a webinar for community representatives interested in applying for planning assistance through the new Recreation Economy for Rural Communities initiative Tuesday, May 7, 2019 from noon-1 p.m. PDT.
Program applications for the summer, 2019 cohort are due May 31, 2019.
The federal agencies are jointly accepting applications from communities seeking help in revitalizing their economy through outdoor recreation as part of a pilot program created in support of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America in 2017.
“By partnering alongside EPA and the Northern Border Commission, the Forest Service is proud to help communities deliver recreation experiences that better meet the needs of visitors and support local economies,” Vicki Christiansen, Chief of the USDA Forest Service, said. “We are committed to sustaining the nation’s forests and grasslands through public-private partnerships that engage people directly in the shared stewardship of their natural resources.”
According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 report on The National Outdoor Recreation Economy, outdoor activities – including hiking, biking, boating, fishing, hunting, bird watching, off-road vehicle riding, skiing, snowmobiling, and viewing historic places – generated $887 billion in annual spending and created more than seven million jobs. These activities can bring new investment to local economies, heighten interest in conservation of forests and other natural resources, and improve quality of life for residents and visitors.
A planning team will help selected communities bring together local residents and other stakeholders to decide on strategies and an action plan to grow the local outdoor recreation economy. The planning assistance process will take place over a period of four to six months, focused on a two-day facilitated community workshop during which participants will work together to identify a vision, goals, and specific actions to realize their goals.
Partner communities are encouraged to pursue activities that foster environmentally friendly community development and main street revitalization through the conservation and sustainable use of public or private forests or other natural resources, such as:
- building or expanding trail networks to expand use and attract visitors and new businesses
- developing in-town amenities, such as broadband service, quality housing, or local shops, restaurants, or breweries, to serve residents and help attract new visitors and residents with an interest in nearby outdoor assets;
- marketing main street as a gateway to nearby natural lands and recreational opportunities; and
- developing a community consensus on the management of outdoor assets.
USDA Forest Service and its federal partners expect to announce the selection of eight communities for planning assistance during summer, 2019 and anticipates repeating a second round of pilot planning projects in 2020.
To register for the webinar, visit: https://epawebconferencing.acms.com/ec93eh7zih6m/event/event_info.html.
The deadline to apply for the program is May 31, 2019.
Special consideration will be given to communities that are:
- small towns;
- economically disadvantaged, such as those in Opportunity Zones; and/or
- in the Northern Border Region.
The USDA Forest Service develops and implements place-based recreation planning using collaborative processes with communities and outdoor recreation and tourism providers within regional destination areas. Forest Service recreation programs support over 205,000 jobs, the majority of which are in rural gateway communities near national forests. The agency partners with states, tribes, local communities, and landowners to promote shared stewardship of public and privately-owned forests and grasslands.
The Northern Border Regional Commission provides federal funds for critical economic and community development projects throughout the northeast. These investments lead to new jobs being created and leverages substantial private sector investments.
EPA’s Smart Sectors program also provides support to grow the outdoor recreation economy. In 2018, EPA offices in the New England and Mountains and Plains regions established Smart Sectors programs that recognize the wealth of natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities that can be leveraged to create jobs, spur new businesses, and support economic revitalization.
For more information:
USDA Forest Service – https://www.fs.fed.us/
EPA Community Revitalization and Smart Sectors partnerships – https://www.epa.gov/community-revitalizat and https://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/recreation-economy-rural-communities.
Northern Border Regional Commission – http://www.nbrc.gov/
Source information: U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Public Affairs (joint press release)