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Sanders names husband to lead outdoors effort

Devil's Den State Park in northwest Arkansas is seen in this file photo.
Arkansas Tourism
Devil's Den State Park in northwest Arkansas is seen in this file photo.

Gov. Sarah Sanders signed an executive order Tuesday (Jan. 24) establishing the Natural State Initiative and the Natural State Initiative Advisory Council, and said her husband, Bryan, will lead the effort in a volunteer capacity.

The order says the council will advise the governor about promoting outdoor recreation and the outdoor economy.

The order says the first gentleman will chair the council with no compensation. Gov. Sanders will appoint the council’s members, who will serve on a volunteer basis.

The council will coordinate with the Arkansas Department of Commerce to promote the state’s outdoor recreation industry and consider developing outdoor recreation opportunity zones near state parks.

It also will coordinate with the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism to create a plan to maintain state parks trails and connect them with larger regional trail systems, develop a marketing strategy to promote tourism and outdoor recreation, and create a framework for attracting partners to improve the parks.

It also will coordinate with the governor to create workers ready for the outdoor economy; help state government develop outdoor food, beverage and vendor services; and review the state’s tax and regulatory environment. It will present to the governor an annual written report.

Gov. Sanders said the first gentleman is a lover of the outdoors.

“There’s nobody who has drug me up more mountains, down more trails and into more water both figuratively and literally than my husband, who has a great passion for all things outdoors, outdoor recreation, and especially right here in Arkansas,” she said.

Mr. Sanders said he once took a trip to Montana where a flyfishing guide asked him where he was from and told him he could have saved his time and money by staying in Arkansas.

“I really, truly believe that ‘The Natural State’ is our unique selling proposition,” he said. “It’s what differentiates us. But it’s not only that. It’s not only what separates us. It’s the space that we can compete and we can win, and going forward this is going to be a high priority for this administration, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Mr. Sanders said outdoors activities get children off screens and social media and is beneficial for physical and mental health, quality of life, tourism, economic development and workforce development.

“One of the great things about this issue is it’s not a partisan issue,” he said. “This is not left or right or Democrat or Republican. I think it’s a great unifying issue for our state. I don’t know anybody who’s against expanding access to outdoor recreation or growing our outdoor economy. It’s a win for everybody.”

Steve Brawner is a freelance journalist and contributor to Talk Business & Politics.