OREC update: Reaching an Accord

Representatives from eight states came together to sign off on shared political principles.

If the outdoor industry had a constitution, the Confluence Accords would be it.

After seven months of collective effort, representatives from the eight states with formal offices of outdoor recreation gathered on the roof of a downtown Denver hotel yesterday to sign the accords, which outline priorities for advancing the interests of the outdoor industry.

“The Confluence Accords will serve as a lasting cornerstone for our growing political voice and a road map for states on the journey to create their own outdoor recreation offices and their journey to become signatories of these accords,” said Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry.

Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, speaks in front of the seven other OREC directors during an event at…
Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, speaks in front of the seven other OREC directors during an event at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018.Nick Cote

The document is the result of a series of meetings among delegations from each of the eight states, which culminated at the Confluence Summit in North Carolina earlier this year. The accords outline shared best-practice principles in four categories: conservation and stewardship, education and workforce training, economic development, and the intersection between public health and wellness and the outdoor industry. Representatives from Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Vermont, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington are all signatories.

From the creation of new outdoor recreation offices, to the Outdoor Industry Association’s new Vote the Outdoors campaign, to the Access Fund’s Climb the Hill lobbying event in D.C., it’s no secret that the outdoor industry has been ramping up its political might in recent years. 

Still, the Confluence Accords represent a significant milestone, and a turning point for outdoor industry’s commitment to unity on matters of public policy.

“I think we are in a political environment where bipartisan issues are rarer and rarer, and it seems like you have to fight to keep something bipartisan,” said Jon Snyder, representing Washington. “But what you see here, and what’s different, is that you’ve got eight states on every part of the political spectrum in this country coming together. This is a fight to keep outdoor recreation bipartisan.”

The agreement is the first of its kind—the first time any industry of this size has come together across state lines to officially sign off on principles for moving forward in a unified fashion. And that unity extends not just across states, but also across industries within them.

“Many of our delegates [to the Confluence Summits] were from the health sector; business, obviously; public safety; and other nontraditional fields that really show how the outdoor industry wraps around so many important things in the fabric of our nation,” said Domenic Bravo, representing Wyoming.

The delegations from each of the eight states are scheduled to meet at the Confluence Summit in January, where four more states (Kansas, Michigan, Arkansas, and Maryland) plan to sign onto the accords. Signatories hope to hold summits twice annually for the foreseeable future to work together on issues facing the outdoor industry.

“For the longest time, we in the outdoor industry were seen as the seasonal, part-time kids who don’t really give back or contribute to the community,” Benitez said after the event. Through the accords, he and the other signatories hope to change that image once and for all, and to prove the professionalism and credibility of the outdoor recreation industry.

“When you think of other economies of a scale close to ours—think the auto industry, for example—they all have a deep political presence in D.C. and across the country,” Benitez said. “[Through the accords], we’re defining our political voice.”