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OUR PERSPECTIVES

How Outdoor Recreation Shows Up in This Year’s Farm Bill



Earlier this month, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees released overviews of what their versions of the Farm Bill will look like. While the outdoor recreation sector plays a pivotal role within the U.S. Forest Service and broader U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, past Farm Bills have rarely highlighted policies that directly impact the industry. We’re seeing a change this year, with several programs directly highlighting the importance of outdoor recreation that will have a significant impact on how people get outside on public lands.


House Version:


Reallocates Inflation Reduction Act funding for climate-based conservation into the conservation baseline funding. This will increase the Conservation Title funding by nearly 25 percent.


Reauthorizes the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which is a competitive grant program that enables state and Tribal governments to increase opportunities for owners and managers of private lands who want to make their land available for public recreation.


Establishes new Forest Conservation Easement Program, which will make it easier for landowners to protect working forests in perpetuity.


Updates the Conservation Reserve Program by incentivizing enrollment of marginal lands and encouraging state partnerships. This program encourages private landowners to conserve parts of their property for wildlife habitat.


Expands the Good Neighbor Authority for state and local partners to work with the federal government on forest and watershed restoration.


Senate Version:


Funds rural development business grants for projects that support outdoor recreation.


Creates an interagency task force on outdoor recreation to encourage Federal investments in recreation on federal lands.


Improves forest inventory and analysis to better account for forest carbon removal.


Reallocates Inflation Reduction Act funding for climate-based conservation into the conservation baseline funding and permanently reauthorizes these climate-smart programs.


Reauthorizes the VPA-HIP and increases authorized funding to $50 million over five years.


Establishes specialized training on wildland firefighting and forest and rangeland management to Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center students.

 

What comes next?


While the release of both the House and Senate overviews was an important step forward, we still have a long way to go. The House will hold a markup of the bill on May 23 and move its version to the House floor. The Senate Agriculture Committee has yet to schedule a markup.


While the process might seem stalled externally, House and Senate Committee staff will be communication on a final version, which means it’s important to continue building momentum for the provisions within the Farm Bill that your organization wishes to see in the final version.

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