Virginia joins national outdoor recreation network

Canoers and kayakers enjoy Elkhorn Lake, part of George Washington National Forest, in western Virginia.

Virginia — along with Maine, Michigan, Nevada, and New Mexico — recently joined a network of states that have signed the Outdoor Recreation Industry Confluence Accords. The move is recognition of the importance of outdoor recreation to the Commonwealth and local economies, as well as its positive impact on our quality of life.

The Confluence Accords stress the importance of conservation and stewardship, economic development, public health and wellness, and education. Thirteen states have now signed the accords, including North Carolina.

“From the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, every region of Virginia is home to unique outdoor assets and recreation opportunities which are sought out by millions of travelers each year,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “We’re pleased to join the community of states that have recognized the importance of this industry as a driver of economic development and quality of life.”

Part of the accords require participating states to appoint directors of outdoor recreation and fund their operations.

Outdoor recreation is an increasingly important part of economic development efforts across Virginia, especially near Virginia’s national forests and parks. The state’s outdoor recreation industry employs almost 200,000 people across the state and contributes $21.9 billion dollars in consumer spending annually to the state’s economy. These tallies include activities ranging from picnicking and day hiking to fly-fishing, mountain biking, and backcountry camping.  

“Virginia’s George Washington and Jefferson national forests are extremely important public lands on the East Coast, welcoming over a million visitors each year and providing jobs and economic growth in nearby communities,” said Senior Attorney Kristin Davis. “Only a half-day’s drive for much of our region, these special places offer all of us an opportunity to get outside and enjoy their natural beauty. Whether you crave peace and quiet or a rush of adrenaline, these forests are just waiting for all of us.”

The accords recognize that “outdoor recreation is core to the very character and quality of life we should all enjoy” and states that join commit “to fostering conservation and stewardship values, ensuring environmental quality, and restoring sustainable access to the outdoors for current and future generations.”

SELC works hard to protect the ecological and scenic treasures on our public lands from incompatible activities, like mining, gas drilling, and inappropriate, destructive logging, that would spoil them and drive away visitors. These threats further underscore the importance for state and national leaders to recognize the recreational value these areas provide.

“Virginia’s national forests offer visitors an opportunity to seek solitude and find adventure in the great outdoors,” said Davis. “It is great to see state leaders show that they understand the value of these natural places, which are treasured resources for both locals and tourists alike.”

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