Policy Options

Outdoor Engagement



NCEL Point of Contact

Dylan McDowell
Executive Director



There are several state legislative approaches to promote time outdoors, the associated health benefits, and public lands conservation.

Grant Programs 

State-supported programs can help ensure outdoor access. Washington, Minnesota (HF133), and Nevada (AB331) have established No Child Left Inside grant programs that support outdoor access for underserved youth. Meanwhile, New Mexico (SB462) and Colorado (HB21-1318) have created Outdoor Equity Fund grant programs to support transformative outdoor experiences for youth.  

Outdoor Learning 

States are encouraging outdoor learning environments, such as Oregon SB439 (2015) which provides outdoor school programs for 5th and 6th-grade students, and Washington SB5151 (2021) which fully licensed outdoor preschools following a successful pilot program. 

Outdoor Wellness

States can facilitate opportunities for outdoor wellness, therapy, and other health-related programs. In New York, the Outdoor Rx Act (A8094A) requires a review of veterans’ abilities to access state parks, lands, and facilities. In Washington, the state-funded a “Parks Rx Health and Wellness” pilot program to prescribe time outdoors in the 2021 budget

Office of Outdoor Recreation 

Designating state offices serves to support the outdoor industry and improve outdoor recreation opportunities. Examples include Colorado (2015), Utah SB73 (2013), Washington SB 5843 (2015), Oregon HB3350 (2017) and Virginia (2019). New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division (SB462) also included creation of the Outdoor Equity Fund. 

Increasing Park Access 

States can reduce barriers and create incentives for park access. Many states grant free entry to state parks for students of a certain age or grade, such as Nevada AB385 (2017) which applies to students ages 9 to 11. Utah has created the Every Kid Outdoor Initiative (HCR004) that encourages youth outdoor engagement through a passport program full of activities. 

Public Lands Day

States have selected a specific day to promote outdoor recreation and organize annual events. Examples include Colorado SB21 (2016), Nevada SB413 (2017), New Mexico SM11 (2016), Ohio HR120 (2015), Oregon HB2143 (2017), and Virginia HJR640 (2017).


NCEL Resources

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