Tom Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Department of Agricultureâ€™s Forest Service, stressed the role of recreation in his March 24 address to the Recreation Exchange, hosted by the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) in Washington, D.C.
Tidwell leads the agency responsible for the management of 193 million acres of national forests and national grasslands. These lands provide an amazing diversity of outdoor recreation opportunities, connecting people with nature in an unmatched variety of settings and activities and hosting some 200 million recreation visits to national forests annually.
According to an ARC news release, Tidwell emphasized the value of recreation in the national forests to the nation in terms of jobs and the economy â€” at least $14.5 billion, or more than half of the total contribution of the Forest Service to GDP â€” and health, saying, â€œRecreation is a major part of our role in managing the 193 million acres of forests and grasslands. We recognize the full value of recreation to the nation and communities, such as economic and employment opportunities, and healthy lifestyles.â€
Tidwell told the group that the White Houseâ€™s â€œAmericaâ€™s Great Outdoorsâ€ Â Initiative was â€œan incredible opportunity,â€ saying the report released on Feb. 16 offers a platform for expanding recreation and â€œan opportunity to highlight the benefits of the outdoors on health and well being.â€
Tidwell emphasized the importance of recreation to our recovering economy. â€œThe recreation industry is the economic driver for much of America, and especially rural communities, perhaps much more than people know,â€ he said. â€œThe more we talk about the economic benefits, the better.â€
The chief talked next about the Forest Service Planning Rule draft, which was released on Feb. 10 and is now in public comment stage.
Tidwell emphasized the importance of planning for the future â€“ that people will want and need different ways to access and enjoy public lands 10 or 40 years from now. He said, â€œWe need to look at visitor needs and how we invest and plan for whatâ€™s best long range. We must be adaptable.â€
Exchanges have featured guests who are influencing recreation public policy in America near-monthly since 1979.
Read the full report on ARCâ€™s Recreation Exchange web page.