Outdoor Recreation Learning Network – Annual Meeting 2021

The annual meeting will discuss how states can advance outdoor recreation issues including economic recovery from COVID-19, developing partnerships to leverage limited public dollars, accessing federal economic development grants, promoting equal access to nature, and using data to support public investments.

January 78, 2021 | 12:00 – 4:00PM EDT | Virtual

The National Governors Association (NGA) Outdoor Recreation Learning Network is hosting its second annual meeting for governors’ staff and outdoor recreation advisors. Access to the outdoors is increasingly critical to maintaining public health given the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 emergency. While this has been a difficult year, the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act that provides full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund has marked a foundational success for outdoor recreation. The annual meeting will discuss how states can advance outdoor recreation issues including economic recovery from COVID-19, developing partnerships to leverage limited public dollars, accessing federal economic development grants, promoting equal access to nature, and using data to support public investments. Sessions will feature federal, state, local, and topical leaders to inform participants and lead a discussion-oriented meeting.


Meeting Slides

Sessions can be watched in the playlist below, or by clicking on the session title in the Agenda.


January 7, 2021

Welcome and Introductions (12:00 – 12:10 PM)

NGA will give a brief introduction to the meeting. Participants will then be asked to introduce themselves and offer one question or objective they have for this event.


  • Bevin Buchheister, Senior Policy Analyst, National Governors Association

State Coordination of Support for Outdoor Businesses During COVID-19 (12:10 – 1:00 PM)

Small recreation businesses are economic engines in the states, and many were drastically impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. This session explores different programs Colorado launched during the pandemic that will help small outdoor recreation businesses including the CLIMBER Loan Fund Program administered by the state and the Energize Colorado Gap Fund that is using public CARES Act and private dollars to provide $31 million in loans and grants to help small businesses. Learn details about who the funds support, how they were created, the sources of funding and how these programs can be replicated. 


  • Jeff Kraft, Director of Business Funding and Incentives, CLIMBER Loan Fund, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade
  • Jason Bertolacci, Founder and Principal, Berbur, LLC., COO, Energize Colorado Gap Fund

Moderator: Nathan Fey, Director, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office

Land and Water Conservation Fund Background, Opportunities and Challenges (1:00 – 2:15 PM)

The Great American Outdoors Act passed in July 2020 is the largest investment in public lands in U.S. history, delivering $9.5 billion over the next five years for deferred maintenance in national parks and $900 million per year in perpetuity to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). In this session we will learn about new guidelines from the Department of Interior that increase flexibility for how states and local communities spend and match LWCF grants, gives states and communities a voice in federal land acquisitions and prioritizes investments that increase public access for recreation, enhance conservation and support recovery of endangered species. We will also receive a LWCF 101 from National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers about how the funds are administered at the state level and how partnerships can help get dollars on the ground.


  • Joel Lynch, Chief of State and Local Assistance Program Division, National Park Service
  • Doug Eiken, Executive Director, National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers
  • Lauren Imgrund, Deputy Secretary, Conservation and Technical Services, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Moderator: Bevin Buchheister, Senior Policy Analyst, National Governors Association

Developing Partnerships to Access Land and Water Conservation Fund Grants (2:30 – 3:30 PM)

Learn about state outreach to communities and Land Trusts to educate them about the opportunities to use LWCF funding for acquisition and recreation development and to leverage funds with other public and private partners. Speakers will discuss several case studies and highlight the town of Acton, Maine that partnered with Three Rivers Land Trust to “Save Goat Hill” from development pressure and expand outdoor access for the local community that is also American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. 


  • Andy Cutko, Director, Bureau of Parks and Lands, Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry
  • Douglas S. Beck, Outdoor Recreation Supervisor, Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Parks and Lands
  • Carl Davis, Vice President, Three Rivers Land Trust

Moderator: Bevin Buchheister, Senior Policy Analyst, National Governors Association

Spotlight: Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) Toolkit (3:30 – 4:00 PM)

Creating an outdoor recreation economy in rural communities is proven to grow jobs and spur local revenue but needs a dedicated and organized effort to be successful. ORR will give us a preview of their soon to be released Toolkit, developed using practitioner interviews, that compiles a step-by-step- guide of best practices for states and locals to consider.

Speaker: Chris Perkins, Fellow, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable

January 8, 2021

Welcome (12:00 – 12:10)

USDA Opportunities and Financing to Support Rural Tourism and Recreation (12:10 – 1:00 PM)

More than just hiking and fishing, the “Recreation Economy” encompasses a diverse series of activities, ranging from fitness and wellness to habitat preservation to agritourism, which can provide a tremendous economic boost to rural tourism programs, especially those in rural areas. During this session staff from the US Forest Service and USDA Rural Development will highlight Recreation Economy opportunities and also detail resources that can be used to create jobs, improve the economy and grow recreation and tourism programs. Recent program and policy updates will also be summarized.


  • Timothy W. O’Connell, West Region Coordinator, Rural Development Innovation Center, United States Department of Agriculture
  • Toby Bloom, National Program Manager of Travel, Tourism and Interpretation, United States Forest Service

Moderator: Timothy Schoonhoven, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association

Equity, Access, and Inclusion in the Outdoors (1:00 – 1:45 PM)

A recent report on The Nature Gap from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) indicates nature benefits are not accessed equitably by low-income communities and people of color. As states continue to expand their outdoor recreation grant programs and revise Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans, they have the opportunity to increase emphasis on equitable access to connect all citizens to their natural resources. This session will explore several policy approaches outlined in “The Nature Gap” report to ensure the benefits of nature extend to all people, including goal setting, coalition building, and allocating funding towards enhancing equity.


  • Jenny Rowland, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for American Progress
  • Shanna Edberg, Director of Conservation Programs, Hispanic Access Foundation

Equity Programs Showcase (2:00 – 3:15 PM)

Building off the previous session, this showcase will feature examples of how states are improving equitable access and inclusion in the outdoors.


  • The Honorable Angelica Rubio, District 35 State Legislator, New Mexico House of Representatives
  • Representative Rubio, co-author of the New Mexico Outdoor Equity Fund legislation, will discuss the need for the Fund and the strategies and information relied upon to pass the legislation.
  • Kaleen Cottingham, Director, Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office
  • Ms. Cottingham will discuss how the state has worked to constantly improve its equity outcomes in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant fund and about the state office’s comprehensive equity review of all recreation and conservation grant programs.
  • Amira Streeter, Natural Resource Policy Advisor, Oregon Racial Justice Council (invited)
  • Ms. Streeter will highlight recommendations for the state’s 2021 legislative session, including how to improve equity across natural resource agencies and outdoor recreation.

Using Economic Data to Highlight Local Needs (3:15 – 4:00 PM)

This session will examine how digital data can complement other state specific datasets to tell a more local story that can directly demonstrate the percent of the state or local economy driven by outdoor recreation. This data can be used to effectively demonstrate whether outdoor recreation infrastructure spending is meeting actual needs and make a case for increased support.


  • Simon Caballero, Tourism Data Sales, Uber Media
  • Greg Episcopia, Head of Business Development, Arrivalist (invited)