U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Boulder) speaks during a CORE Act One Year Anniversary event on January 30, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency in Denver. (Andy Colwell, special to The Colorado Sun)

In a state like Colorado, outdoor recreation is an integral part of life, and after a year of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, more and more people are turning to the outdoors to benefit their physical and mental health. 

As the city of Boulder continues to grieve and recover from the tragic mass shooting on March 22, we are reminded the outdoors can provide an important resource and refuge for people of all walks of life. 

Participation in activities like running, cycling, and hiking are skyrocketing, and as more people spend time outside, legislation must protect public lands, address the threat of climate change, and set up the $788 billion outdoor industry up for continued success in growing the economy. 

Lise Aangeenbrug

Fortunately, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette, is bringing those priorities to Washington, D.C. 

Rep. Neguse has only just begun his second term in Congress and has already proven to be an instrumental advocate for the people of Colorado. In February, he was appointed to lead the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, replacing the newly confirmed secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, on the panel. 

As a Boulder-based organization, Outdoor Industry Association, of which I am executive director, is proud to see our own representative be the first Coloradan to lead this subcommittee. Congressman Neguse has a genuine passion for the public lands and parks that he grew up around and knows firsthand how important thriving public lands are to the national, state, and local economies.  

As a freshman legislator, Congressman Neguse prioritized conservation, ensuring the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and introducing the 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act

And this session has been no different. In addition to gaining his influential subcommittee chairmanship, Congressman Neguse has introduced the Civilian Conservations Corps Act along with other critical conservation bills that would help address devastating wildfires and spur economic development in rural communities. He also ushered a public lands package through the House, which included the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, which would grow Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy and protect 400,000 acres of public land. 

By supporting these bills and advocating for the outdoors, Congressman Neguse has lifted up the outdoor industry and helped advance the policy priorities that are key to our member companies and to the millions of individuals who spend time in the outdoors.   

Outdoor Industry Association enjoys a close partnership with Congressman Neguse, and this was especially true during his work on the Great American Outdoors Act. We’ve also collaborated with the congressman on educational webinars and events to talk about climate advocacy and the impact good policymaking can have on the outdoors. 

With this legislative session well underway, we’re excited to continue to collaborate and bring forward-looking outdoor policy back to the top of Congress’s priority list. 

OIA’s newest participation report shows more people have turned to the outdoors during the pandemic, and the new participants are more likely to be female, live in urban areas, and are slightly more ethnically diverse. As new people join the outdoor community, it is critical to ensure the outdoors remain accessible, equitable, and local. 

As the first African-American congressman from our state and the first African-American to serve as chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands, Rep. Neguse is working to pass this type of legislation. His bipartisan Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act would provide funding to make sure urban parks remain accessible and underserved communities can get the benefits of outdoor spaces.    

Congressman Neguse’s chairmanship is a great sign for the future of outdoor recreation and policy. His leadership on issues that affect public lands and waters has already had major positive impacts on not just Coloradans, but every American. 

With a public servant like Neguse leading the way, the outdoor enthusiasts and Colorado business owners that depend on the outdoors will have a strong advocate in Congress.

Lise Aangeenbrug is the executive director of Outdoor Industry Association, a Boulder-based membership trade organization that advocates for the industry in recreation and trade policy, sustainable business innovation and increasing outdoor participation.

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Lise Aangeenbrug

Special to The Colorado Sun