Covid-19 Jobs Package Aims to Put Alaskans Back to Work
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
The proposal seeks to fund jobs on outdoor recreation infrastructure and restoration projects throughout the state; streamline hiring and grant processes to get Alaskans back to work this summer.
Dear Senators Murkowski, Sullivan and Congressman Young,
On behalf of the Alaska Outdoor Alliance (AOA), we are writing to thank you for your leadership on stimulus spending to address the economic crisis created by COVID-19 in Alaska.
AOA is dedicated to ensuring Alaska emerges as the best recreation economy in the world. This request is the result of input from our allied retailers, commercial and non-profit trail organizations, fishing, birding, whale watching, bear viewing and hunting guides, economic development groups, village-based community forestry directors, local governments, and tourism promoters united to advance Alaska as a leader in the outdoor recreation economy.
Outdoor recreation is a major force in the Alaska economy. It comprises 4.2 percent of the Alaska GDP, supports 1 in 10 jobs and in 2018 contributed $3.2 billion in consumer spending.
We need policies and investments that will help our sector survive and rebound to do what it does best: help business recover, help communities recover, grow the economy, create jobs for Alaskans and continue to enhance Alaskans’ exceptional way of life. As Congress continues to identify stimulus spending priorities, we encourage you to prioritize job-creating investments that contribute to a resilient and sustainable future for Alaska’s economy.
AOA urges you to support an investment package for Alaska’s outdoor recreation economy as part of future stimulus spending priorities for Alaska.
We encourage Congress to direct stimulus funding to the following priority programs that will help rebuild and promote jobs in the tourism-dependent communities and regions across Alaska:
Alaska Civilian Conservation Corps concept ($750M over a 3-year period)
Alaska Priority Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure & Restoration Projects ($1.25B over 5-year period)
Alaska Civilian Conservation Corps concept ($750M over a 3-year period)
Alaska Partnerships for Recreation Infrastructure and Restoration: Inspired by the success of the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps, recreation and restoration jobs can bring Alaskans back to work and grow our state’s economy. We request federal recovery funds to allow agencies to contract and partner with Alaskan companies, non-profits, tribal entities, and individuals to expand capacity to tackle recreation and restoration infrastructure projects. To do this, we are requesting expedited financial support for the following:
Expand the work force that maintains private sector capacity and jobs: Recreation is key to an effective economic recovery. Without a 2020 tour season, many businesses stand to lose an entire year’s worth of revenue. Businesses and jobs are at risk. The Alaska CCC concept provides opportunities for our own businesses and individuals to get to work. Guides and outfitters have a vested interest in recreation infrastructure and are uniquely qualified to provide crews and supplement access to remote work sites as needed to efficiently and effectively tackle trail work, facility maintenance, and ecosystem restoration work.
Direct Land Management Agencies to undertake an Alaskan revival of the CCC concept to get Alaskan guiding companies, unemployed and furloughed employees back to work. Many existing agency partners including professional, non-profit, and Alaska Native trail and forestry crews have all indicated their interest and ability in scaling capacity if funding is increased. Funds could be appropriated into existing project-based operations accounts and be loaded onto existing cooperative agreements. This will ensure funding is immediately put to work. Projects should be focused on trails and facilities on public lands and cultural preservation.
Streamline Federal hiring and contracting. Streamline hiring authority to allow rapid execution of contracts with businesses, tribes, non-profits, and Alaska Native Corporations. Support with building community capacity to collaborate with the agencies for economic recovery.
Alaska Priority Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure and Restoration Projects ($1.25B over 5-year period)
Let’s set the stage to make Alaska the best outdoor recreation economy in the world. Catching up on deferred maintenance and investing in capital improvement projects will provide work for Alaskans and ensure that we’re ready when demand rebounds. When this disruption is over, these projects will be assets to our public lands, gateway communities and growing tourism and recreation economies. To do this, we are requesting investment in these priority areas:
Deferred maintenance: Support the Great American Outdoors Act. GAOA includes an expansion of the original Restore Our Parks Act. Originally intended for deferred maintenance only on National Park Service units, under GAOA now also includes deferred maintenance projects on US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and US Fish and Wildlife Service projects. This is vitally important to Alaska where USFS and NPS deferred maintenance projects alone total $200 million.
Fund shovel ready/NEPA-cleared Agency priority capital improvement projects. Utilize existing organizational networks to evaluate projects with local input. The Alaska Trails Investment Strategy is an example of a non-profit group doing strong work statewide to identify shovel-ready and contingency projects with broad-based support.
Eliminate, reduce or defer state and local match requirements for federal grants. Deferred maintenance and capital improvement wish lists are not unique to federal lands. Tribal, local government and state lands rely on federal grants to leverage funding for close-to-home recreation, as well as vital wildlife and fish restoration projects. It would compound this crisis to revert grant funds for lack of matching funds when state and local partners need them most.
Get more resources to more communities through established federal grant authorizations. Add funding through authorized federal grant programs to speed delivery of resources to support local efforts to build outdoor infrastructure and habitat restoration for fish and wildlife.
Significantly increase challenge cost-share program funding for USFS, NPS, BLM, FWS and NOAA. For example: While the technical assistance offered in the NPS Rivers Trails Conservation Assistance is invaluable, adding funding for grantees would result in more projects coming to life putting more people to work on close-to-home projects.
Alaska needs a greater percentage of stateside LWCF funding available for state and local projects.
Triple funds for the federal highways Recreational Trails Program; reinstate waivers for the Buy America requirement; and allow funds to be used for planning & design layout, without which many worthy projects can’t move forward.
Revise to 50/50, the proposed split between financial and technical assistance funding in the USDA National Resource Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Doing so preserves workforce development opportunities in communities where unemployment ranges as high as 80 percent.
Address the need for whole landscape approaches with more funding for non-federal projects like those offered by USDA State and Private Forestry, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Additional Resources: We are working with our partners in the recreation industry, non-profits, federal, state, local officials, tribes and Native Corporations to compile project lists. On request, we can also provide real-world testimonials about how each of our suggestions directly benefits Alaska businesses and community development efforts.
The undersigned ask you to consider this request as you draft future stimulus packages. Moving forward, please consider Alaska Outdoor Alliance a trusted resource on this and other issues related to Alaska’s outdoor recreation economic sector.
A+ Dog Sled Excursions and Tours; Alaska Biathlon Association; Alaska Bike Adventures; Alaska Huts Association; Alaska Nature Guides; Alaska Trails; Alaska Wildland Adventures; Anchorage Biathlon Club; Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd.; Anchorage Economic Development Corporation; Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz; Anchorage Park Foundation; Arctic Valley Ski Area; Audubon Alaska; Backcountry Hunters and Anglers - Alaska Chapter; Barry Whitehill, US Fish and Wildlife Service, retired; Biathlon Alaska; Chugach Adventures; Chugach Mountain Bike Riders; City of Delta Junction; Mayor Beth Weldon/City and Borough of Juneau Assembly; Currant Ridge Cabins, LLC; Delta Junction Trails Association; Denali Brewing Co.; Dew Claw Kennel, LLC; Forrest Dunbar, Anchorage Assembly; Eaglecrest Ski Area; Explore Cooper Landing; Fairbanks Area Hiking Club; Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition; Fairbanks Cycle Club; Fairweather Ski Works; Fatback Bikes/Speedway Cycles; Gastineau Guiding; Girdwood Mountain Bike Alliance; Girdwood Nordic Ski Club; Goldstream Sports, LLC; Grand View Cafe and RV Campground; Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce; Happy Trails, Inc.; Haines Huts; HARD Eats Remote Catering and Food Truck; Hilltop Ski Area; Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance; Interior Alaska Trails and Parks Foundation; JBER Outdoor Recreation Center; Juneau Economic Development Council; Juneau Mountain Bike Alliance; Karl Kassel, former Mayor, Fairbanks North Star Borough; Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area; Kodiak Area Native Association; Maeve Nevins-Lavtar, Gold Star Sister; Margaret Keiper, UAF Sports and Recreation Business Program; Mat-Su Trails and Parks Foundation; Max Romey Productions; National Parks Conservation Association - Alaska Region; Nicholas D'Alessio, professional guide; Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks; Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage; North Shore Cyclery; Pack Creek Bear Tours; Petersville Community Non-Profit Corporation; Port Protection Adventures; Rum Runner Charters; Running Club North; Sealaska/Allen Marine; Singletrack Advocates; Sitka Cycling Club; Sitka Trail Works, Inc.; Greg Smith, Juneau Assembly; Southeast Alaska Conservation Council; Southeast Alaska Independent Living: Outdoor Recreation and Community Access Program (ORCA); Stray Dogs LLC; Trail Mix, Inc.; Takshanuk Watershed Council; The American Society of Landscape Architects - Alaska Chapter; The Boat Company; The Fixed Line, LLC; Tourism Management Best Practices; UnCruise Adventures; Valdez Adventure Alliance, John Weddleton, Anchorage Assembly; and dozens of private outdoor enthusiasts.