AOA 2020 Wins Fuel Momentum Heading into New Year
The pandemic that dominated headlines in 2020 shined a spotlight on the value of public lands for physical and mental well being and fueled advocacy throughout Alaska's outdoor recreation sector. Throughout a tumultuous year, Alaska Outdoor Alliance never quit forging ahead with its mission to increase awareness and support for the economic impact of Alaska’s outdoor recreation sector.
In November, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis released updated data showing Alaska’s outdoor recreation economy contributes 3.9 percent to the state’s overall gross domestic product. That equates to about half the size of the oil and gas industry and is larger than the state's construction, manufacturing and hospitals industries. Click to view and download a presentation prepared for an AOA Lunch and Learn by the BEA analyst for the national outdoor recreation satellite account.
The following are highlights of AOA 2020:
Focus on Getting Alaskans Back to Work. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, AOA stakeholders collaborated to prepare a jobs stimulus recovery plan to present to Alaska’s Congressional delegation. So far, the plan has succeeded on two planks.
Great American Outdoors Act. GAOA provides funds for catching up on deferred recreation infrastructure maintenance on federal lands and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF provides federal matching funds for state and local projects like trails, cabins, boat launches and playgrounds. Alaska’s delegation, and a bi-partisan majority of Congress, passed GAOA this summer.
Conservation Corps. While three bills are pending in Congress that would revive the Civilian Conservation Corps idea that proved successful in getting Americans back to work after the Great Depression, three Alaska communities took action to set an example. Starting with Juneau and followed by Anchorage and Sitka, local elected leaders allocated some $6 million in CARES Act funding to create community-based conservation corps.
Raising our voices! Turnagain Pass Plowing Initiative/Plow the Seward Highway. Just before this past weekend, Governor Mike Dunleavy responded to calls from nearly 2000 outdoor recreation enthusiasts, 200 businesses and allies to restore winter road maintenance levels on Turnagain Pass. The effort springboarded from conversation during the first AOA Lunch and Learn Sept. 30. It netted press coverage on Anchorage major media outlets - print, radio and TV - as well as letters and resolutions to the Governor from Sen. Pete Micciche, the Anchorage Assembly, Girdwood Alliance and Alaska Trucking Association. The tactical team included Alaska Guide Collective owner Nick D’Alessio, Alaska Mining and Diving General Manager Nick Olzenak, Alaska Avalanche School board members Andy Moderow, Taylor Guetschow and AOA’s Lee Hart. Proof positive that together, we really are a force! Keep on top developments at PlowTheSewardHighway.org and a companion Facebook page.
Confluence gives rise to statewide active transportation group. The 5th Annual Confluence Summit introduced conversations with sectors that naturally connect with outdoor recreation including a session on Mental Health, sponsored by Recover Alaska. The Active Transportation topic gave rise to a statewide active transportation group aiming at measures to create a more bike- and walk-friendly Alaska.
Expanding awareness with lawmakers. During AOA’s annual fly-in held the first week of March, the capitol in Juneau was still open to the public. Sen. Pete Micciche invited the AOA contingent to its first hearing before the Senate Resources committee. It also marked the third time AOA has been heard by House Resources thanks to the invitation of co-chairs Geran Tarr and John Lincoln. Representatives Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and Laddie Shaw co-hosted a Lunch and Learn for legislators and staff. Evening talks and events featured Audubon Alaska, Trout Unlimited and USFS Forest Alaska Region Director of Recreation, Land and Minerals James King and National Park Service Acting Regional Director Don Striker. Updates on priorities, meetings and ways you can support Alaska Outdoor Week 2021 will be available on the AOA website and Facebook page.
Welcoming fresh voices and perspectives. In the fall, AOA launched Lunch & Learn, a series of free one-hour discussions at Noon on Wednesdays where guest hosts and their panelists delve into various topics of interest to Alaska’s outdoor community. Kicking off the series, we talked about winter recreation, the MAPLand Act, mountain biking, the intersection of tourism, culture and outdoor recreation, new opportunities for air taxi services, and fresh data hot off the presses from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. Special thanks to hosts: Haley Johnston, Christina Grande, Luc Mehl, Jen Leahy, and Kellie Okonek. AOA Lunch and Learns are promoted on events pages on this website and AOA's Facebook page.
Looking ahead to 2021, the Lunch and Learn Series starts up again Jan. 13 with a discussion about the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan update process. Save the date for the 4th annual Alaska Outdoor Week Fly-In scheduled March 1 - 5. The 6th Annual Confluence Summit on the Outdoors is scheduled Oct. 26 - 28 at the Westmark in Fairbanks (provided favorable public health conditions prevail).