Advocacy Action Alert: Support the creation of a TN Office of Outdoor Recreation


    The legislative season is upon us and we have an unusual opportunity to join forces to create a Tennessee Office of Outdoor Recreation (OREC) in the Department of Tourist Development. Please read the information below and — if you would like to join our efforts — there are two ways you can support this initiative. 
    Action Steps:
    1. Send a Letter of Support from your business, association, club, or group of outdoor enthusiasts by Monday, February 13 so that we make sure to get the most exposure for this coalition of support while the Legislature moves at a rapid pace. See draft letter of support below. Please add your logo and signature, edit the letter to make it your own voice, and emphasize your own concerns, and send that letter to Ben Murray at and Andrea White at by Monday, February 13.
    2. Sign the petition & post the petition link to your members and supporters for them to sign ASAP.
    Time is of the essence but we will continue collecting support for the next several weeks.
    Additional Information:
    American Canoe Association Tennessee and their coalition of paddling clubs, schools, and kayak manufacturers is working with a coalition that includes Harpeth Conservancy, the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, and other outdoor recreation and tourism advocates on this bill.
    HB 1337/SB 0375 follows the TACIR Commission recommendation to create a Tennessee Office of Outdoor Recreation. As introduced, the bills “create the office of outdoor recreation (OREC) to augment services provided by the wildlife resources agency and the department of environment and conservation in leveraging tourism and economic development opportunities to promote outdoor recreation; creates an outdoor recreation advisory board to advise and assist in identifying outdoor recreation opportunities and an outdoor recreation task force to resolve conflicts between trail and water resource users. – Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 29; Title 11, Chapter 3 and Title 68.”
    TACIR recommended this solution to provide a state liaison to help resolve intergovernmental jurisdictional complications when state agencies, federal agencies, and local municipalities all share authority over the same accesses and waterways. TACIR also suggested this Office of Outdoor Recreation might offer an opportunity to bring the voices of industry, tourism, nonprofit organizations, and enthusiasts to bear on solutions for user group conflicts. The focus on economic development and tourism will create a solution-oriented focus on the opportunities at hand that will best serve rural economies and the user experience of enthusiasts, and will do so far better than leading with either a regulatory or law enforcement approach in this sector.

    Draft Letter of Support:


    On behalf of [YOUR ORGANIZATION], I am writing to express our support for establishing an Office of Outdoor Recreation in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development under House Bill 1337 by Camper/Senate Bill 0375 by Campbell in the Tennessee General Assembly in 2023.

    According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, outdoor recreation generated $9 billion and 93,000 jobs in Tennessee in 2021, comprising 2.1% of the state’s GDP and 2.9% of all jobs. Truly, the outdoor recreation economy is a major piece of Tennessee’s economy and culture and will be for generations to come. Outdoor recreation is not just a “nice to have” in our state and local communities, but a “need to have” for health, jobs, and a vibrant economy.

    To keep this vital sector growing, Tennessee should establish Office of Outdoor Recreation (OREC) in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. The establishment of an OREC was recommended by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) in December 2022 as the best approach for us to navigate this opportunity across intergovernmental agencies and jurisdictions. OREC offers an opportunity to focus on economic development and tourism in rural counties and a solution-oriented focus on user group conflicts and overlapping jurisdictions rather than leading with a regulatory or law enforcement approach. This initiative would also inherently increase rural prosperity, build healthy communities, develop a next-generation workforce, and promote environmental stewardship and responsible resource development.

    An OREC will help attract new businesses, recruit and retain employees, improve urban and rural quality of life, help focus efforts already underway across multiple agencies, and sustainably drive Tennessee’s economy forward. Communities across the state will be better able to recruit talent and business that increasingly factor in quality of life when deciding where to locate.

    There are myriad indirect benefits of the outdoor recreation. Spending time in natural areas helps lessen anxiety and depression, increase feelings of tranquility, and strengthen concentration. Children with regular doses of nature have improved emotional resilience, test scores and cognitive health. People with access to the outdoors are more physically active, and regular physical activity increases our lifespans and helps prevent obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. In addition, Tennessee’s expansive natural areas are effective in combating extreme heat, one of the deadliest consequences of climate change.

    Given the size and scope of Tennessee’s recreation economy and its dense network of rich natural resources across the state, establishing a state Office of Outdoor Recreation in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is a smart investment in Tennessee’s economy and it’s future.