OAK’s Policy Platform

See OAK’s printable Federal Policy Platform Fact Sheet here (updated 2/10/21).

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 policy priorities and appropriations requests:

Outdoors for All Act
(116th Congress) S.1458 / H.R.4512
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. Parks and open space are more essential now than ever, helping people cope, physically and mentally, with the COVID-19 crisis.

A 2017 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:
Support the re-introduction and passage of the Outdoors for All Act to make critical investments in the outdoor recreation economy.

Transportation / Infrastructure Packages

Investment in transit has a direct economic impact in communities and according to the American Public Transit Association, investment in transit can yield 50,731 jobs per $1 billion invested, and offers a 4-to-1 economic return. By passing transportation reauthorization or infrastructure bills that prioritizes access to public lands, it not only provides a critical economic stimulus, but also increases connections between children, youth and families to greenspaces in a time when they most need natural outlets to mental and physical well-being.

OAK’s Ask:
Prioritize access to public lands and waters and increased investment in the intermodal transportation system of the future with increased parity between intermodal transportation and highway funding.
Ensure that any transportation funds provided to state departments of transportation include funding for the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) or TA set-aside.

Transit to Trails Act
(116th Congress) S. 2467 / H.R. 4273
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.

Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR) Act
(116th Congress) S.1665 / H.R.3879
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:
Support re-introduction and passage of the SOAR Act to increase recreational access and help outdoor leaders thrive in the outdoor recreation economy.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization
An average of 11% of Americans reported not having enough to eat this past year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Weekly Household Pulse. It’s essential that we pass a long-overdue Child Nutrition Reauthorization to further address family hunger while ensuring that our Child Nutrition Programs’ USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) continue to support outdoor, site-based congregate meals and snacks. 

Meals and snacks alone are not enough to satisfy the health and wellness needs of families facing hunger. We must continue to allow SFSP and CACFP to support youth-serving organizations, like park and recreation agencies, YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs, in providing children, youth and families with healthy meals and snacks, offering opportunities for essential out-of-school-time learning and physical activities and providing quality, safe childcare.

OAK’s Ask:
Pass a Child Nutrition Reauthorization that supports outdoor, site-based congregate meals and snack programs under the Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program to help address childhood hunger and increase youth outdoor engagement.

21st Century Conservation Corps (21CCC)
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 Conservation Corps (21CCC), 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 21CCC initiative as part of an economic recovery strategy. A 21CCC 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.

Healthy Kids Outdoors Act / Every Kid Outdoors 
Now more than ever, it’s critical to support legislation that equitably connects children, youth and families with the outdoors.

Today’s young people are spending less time outdoors than at any point in history, with one in three Americans lacking access to close-to-home outdoor recreation, let alone access to federal public lands and waters. This disparity is especially evident along racial lines; a recent study from the Trust for Public Land (TPL) revealed that across the nation, parks serving primarily nonwhite populations are half the size of parks that serve majority white populations – and nearly five times as crowded. With CDC guidelines encouraging at least six feet of distance, this makes it incredibly difficult for BIPOC communities to equitably benefit from the proven mental and physical health benefits that outdoor access provides.

Congress must act now to increase youth connections to nature by removing financial barriers and creating strategies to encourage people to be physically active outdoors.

OAK’s Ask:
Introduce legislation that: 

  • Expands the federal Every Kid Outdoors program to grades 3-5 and removes the statutory sunset provision.  
  • Provides program staffing for the participating federal agencies, 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.
  • Provides funding to offset transportation costs, including transporting students to public lands and waters and supplementing agency and nonprofit organizations’ transportation budgets. 
  • Incorporates key provisions of the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act (HKOA) of 2015 (114th Congress: S. 1078 / H.R.2014)
    • Authorizes the Department of the Interior to issue an eligible entity a cooperative agreement for each state for the development, implementation, and updating of a five-year Healthy Kids Outdoors State Strategy designed to encourage people in the United States (especially children, youth, and families) to be physically active outdoors.
    • Requires an entity that receives funding to: (1) update the State Strategy at least once every five years, and (2) provide a 25% match through in-kind contributions or cash.
    • Requires State Strategies to provide for subgrants to local partners to implement the state strategy through at at least one of specified program activities.
    • Directs the President to issue a national strategy for encouraging people to be physically active outdoors.
    • Directs Interior and the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out a study of national significance on the health impacts of the national strategy and State Strategies.
    • Requires Interior to provide technical assistance to eligible entities and local partners, and disseminate best practices that emerge from the strategies funded by this Act.

Appropriations Requests

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)● $125 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.

● $13.478 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 Preventionand Control 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 recreationagencies.