OAK’s Policy Priorities

OAK supports public policies and investments that expand outdoor and environmental education opportunities, promote community health and wellness and engage more youth in environmental protection. Our advocacy includes pushing for legislation and programs that support and invest in connecting children, youth and families to the outdoors. Connecting youth to the outdoors is vital part of maintaining a sustainable outdoor recreation economy, with its proven benefits of improving community health and wellness and engaging more youth in environmental stewardship only increasing the return on federal investments.

Now more than ever, we must increase program support and investment in access to the outdoors so that everyone, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, can enjoy the mental and physical benefits of getting outside while practicing recommending physical distancing guidelines. OAK urges Congress to act now on the following priorities:

Outdoors for All Act
S.2887 / H.R.5413
The Outdoors for All Act establishes a dedicated source of funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) under the Land and Water Conservation Fund to increase access to outdoor recreation opportunities in cities and towns. Priority is given to underserved communities and projects providing job-training to youth.

A study from the National Recreation and Park Association showed that local parks generate $166 billion in economic activity and support more than 1.1 million jobs annually; as we look toward economic recovery, investments in ORLP would accelerate job creation and boost economic activity while expanding park access to the one in three Americans who lack access to close-to-home outdoor recreation.

OAK’s Ask:
Co-sponsor and pass the Outdoors for All Act to make critical investments in the outdoor recreation economy.

Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act
S.2258 / H.R.1678
The Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act would create a one-time, $500 million investment in local parks, trails, schoolyards and green spaces in under-resourced communities. These funds could preserve up to 100,000 local seasonal jobs, provide at least 8,000 new jobs and/or renovate more than 500 sites. Parks and open space are more essential now than ever, helping people cope, physically and mentally, with the COVID-19 crisis.

This important investment in local parks will expand access for the one-third of Americans, including 28 million children, who lack access to a quality park close to home.

OAK’s Ask:
Co-sponsor and pass the Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act to increase equitable access to the outdoors for all children, youth and families.

Transit to Trails Act
S.1461  / H.R.2924 
The Transit to Trails Act would address access issues in transit by establishing a grant program under the Department of Transportation to provide transportation systems to and from underserved communities and public lands. Safe and affordable transportation options are one of the most significant barriers to accessing the outdoors.

Now more than ever, the COVID-19 crisis has led to an increased focus on the benefits of biking, walking and rolling. We must increase investment in transportation infrastructure that allows people to participate in these healthy activities while following health and physical distancing guidelines.

OAK’s Ask: Co-sponsor and pass the Transit to Trails Act to ensure all children, youth and families can safely reach the outdoors.

Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR) Act
 S.1229 / H.R.3670
The SOAR Act makes long-overdue improvements to the permitting process outdoor youth organizations must navigate in order to operate on public lands. Many programs run by OAK members depend on these recreation permits to bring young people outdoors. This legislation directs the federal land management agencies to evaluate their processes for issuing permits and make  improvements where possible. The Act also contains several provisions that require the agencies to be more flexible and transparent in their permitting systems.

OAK’s Ask:
Co-sponsor and pass the SOAR Act to increase recreational access and help outdoor leaders thrive in the outdoor recreation economy.

Environmental Justice in Recreational Permitting Act
S.1269  / H.R.3687
With public land and water visitation still far from reflecting our nation’s racially and ethnically diverse communities, this Act would direct the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to report on whether the recreational permitting systems of the federal land management agencies adequately serve environmental justice communities, and to recommend improvements to increase equitable outdoor access for youth and families.

OAK’s Ask: Cosponsor and pass the Environmental Justice in Recreational Permitting Act.

Civilian Climate Corps (CCC)
As communities face the impacts of COVID-19, we should expand on powerful workforce development and economic recovery programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930’s. By establishing a 21st Century Civilian Climate Corps, we can put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation and addressing the changing climate.

OAK’s Ask:
Introduce legislation that establishes a CCC initiative as part of an economic recovery strategy. A CCC must:

  • Scale the existing network of Service and Conservation Corps and other qualifying organizations to engage young adults and recent veterans in conservation, resource management, and sustainable infrastructure jobs. 
  • Prioritize the use of Public Lands Service Organizations to accomplish projects, including those that advance youth outdoor access.
  • Advance equity by actively recruiting diverse participants and support training and career path development for BIPOC individuals. 
  • Be kept local and responsive.
  • Select science-based projects that enhance ecosystem function.

Federal Funding

AgencySub-AgencyFunding Request
Department of the Interior (DOI)$25 million for the Every Kid Outdoors (EKO) program to expand youth outdoor access and support outdoor learning for: 
-Program staffing for the National Park Service, state park agencies and park-adjacent youth-serving nonprofit organizations, with priority for supporting public-private partnerships that provide open space and environmental education for school districts to conduct classes outdoors.
-Transportation costs, including transporting students to public lands and supplementing park agency and nonprofit organizations’ transportation budgets.
National Park Service (NPS)$130 million for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program to create new outdoor recreation opportunities for larger urban communities in particular, increasing access to quality open spaces and facilitating the development of outdoor recreation partnerships.

$100 million for Youth Programs, supporting NPS staff and park-adjacent organizations to provide underserved youth their first outdoor experience.

$13.5 million for the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program to bring the expertise of over a century of land management to the greater recreation community.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) $10 million for the National Environmental Education Act (NEEA), which provides people from all backgrounds with skills for practical applications for science, technology, engineering and math to make informed decisions, protect their health, build strong communities and take responsible action.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)$5 million for the Drowning Prevention Program at the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) to prevent drownings, the leading cause of accidental deaths among our youngest children (ages 0-4).
Division of Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity (DNPAO)Support $125 million in increased funding for CDC’s DNPAO, which partners with national, state and local organizations to advance physical activity and obesity prevention initiatives including: State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program (SPAN), Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), the High Obesity Program (HOP) and the Active People Healthy Nation Initiative (APHN).
Department of Commerce (DOC)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) $8 million for the Bay-Watershed Educationand Training (B-WET) program to provide increased watershed education for students in K-12 education.

$8 million for the Environmental Literacy Grant (ELG) program to provide additional resources to assist communities in increasing environmental literacy.
Department of Transportation (DOT)$1 billion for the Better Utilizing Investments to Lead Development (BUILD), which funds multi-modal and active transportation projects that significantly enhance safety, walkability and no-motorized mobility in local communities.

Ensure that any transportation funds provided to state departments of transportation include funding for the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) or TA set-aside.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)$4.2 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, grants from which support local development activities for neighborhood revitalization, economic development and improvement of community facilities, such as parks and recreation.
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) $12.1 million for Farm to School Grant Program. This program, which has funded over 7,000 schools and has reached more than 2.5 million students, supports a wide range of activities, from training, planning and developing partnerships to creating new menu items, establishing supply chains, offering taste tests to children, purchasing equipment, planting school gardens and organizing field trips to agricultural operations. 
US Forest Service (USFS)$4 million for the Community Forest and Open Space (CFP) Program to complement existing conservation programs by helping communities and tribes identify, purchase and manage locally important forestlands threatened with development.

$40 million for the Urban and Community Forestry (U&CF) Program to continue serving more than 200 million people in more than 7,700 communities across the U.S. through the development and maintenance of local urban forestry programs, increasing nearby nature access to forests and trees.

$1 million in renewed funding for the “More Kids in the Woods” program to focus support and attention on critical youth outreach work. 
Department of Education (DOE)$1.35 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, a critical source of funding for many local afterschool and summer learning programs, including those hosted outdoors by schools and park and recreation agencies.