group photo of adults and children in front of RVs

Opening Nature’s Doors: A Call for Senate Action on AORA for Equity in Outdoor Access

From the picturesque landscapes, parks, open spaces and lakes of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where I have the privilege to work, the natural world's beauty and tranquility are evident. However, access to these outdoor wonders is not universal. As Vice President of Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion at Winnebago Industries, and with over two decades of experience in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce and our communities, I've come to understand deeply that access to nature is not just a luxury—it is essential for the health and well-being of all individuals. This belief fuels my support for the recently passed Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act in the U.S. House and my strong advocacy for the U.S. Senate's prompt passage of its companion bill, the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA).

The passage of the EXPLORE Act by the House – by an overwhelming bipartisan vote – represents a landmark achievement in making outdoor recreation more inclusive and accessible, particularly for low-income, Indigenous, and other communities historically marginalized from such experiences. These communities often face barriers to accessing natural spaces due to geographic isolation, economic constraints, or a lack of targeted programming. The EXPLORE Act, and by extension AORA, aim to help dismantle these barriers, offering a beacon of hope for more equitable outdoor access.

The legislation is poised to bring transformative benefits to these communities by prioritizing funding and resources towards increasing outdoor accessibility. It acknowledges the significance of connecting children from all backgrounds with nature through the continuation of the “Every Kid Outdoors Act,” laying the foundation for a lifelong appreciation of the outdoors. Furthermore, it commits to enhancing green spaces and parks within urban and tribal lands through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program, recognizing that such initiatives are critical in urban and densely populated areas where natural spaces are scarce.

Moreover, the act takes significant strides in addressing the specific needs of gateway communities—those at the doorstep of our national parks and public lands. By bolstering infrastructure and access in these areas, the EXPLORE Act ensures that the economic and social benefits of proximate natural resources are attainable for local residents, many of whom belong to low-income and Indigenous populations.

The emphasis on making the outdoors accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and veterans, underlines the inclusive spirit of the EXPLORE Act. Outdoor activities provide unique therapeutic benefits, offering healing, relaxation, and a sense of community. By ensuring these groups have the resources and accommodations they need to enjoy the outdoors, the act fosters an inclusive environment where the restorative power of nature is accessible to all.

As an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, I see the EXPLORE Act and AORA as crucial steps towards a more equitable society. These pieces of legislation recognize that access to the outdoors and the benefits it brings should not be determined by one’s zip code, income, or racial background. Nature, in its boundless beauty and serenity, should be a shared treasure accessible to everyone.

I applaud the House for its foresight and leadership in passing the EXPLORE Act and urge the Senate to follow suit by swiftly passing the America's Outdoor Recreation Act. Doing so would not only affirm our commitment to equity and inclusion but also ensure that the wonders and benefits of the great outdoors are accessible to all, irrespective of their socioeconomic status or cultural background. It's time for us to come together to support legislation that breaks down barriers and builds bridges to the natural world for everyone to be great outdoors.

Page 24 Jil Littlejohn Bostick


Jil Littlejohn Bostick currently serves as Vice President of Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion at Winnebago Industries. She is an influential, bilingual DEI and social impact leader with 20+ years of experience in growing a diverse and inclusive workforce. She has a proven record in translating best practices into readily consumable resources and programs aligned to business needs. She is committed to inspiring people to drive effective teamwork, communication, collaboration and commitment across multiple groups with competing priorities. She is a graduate of Wofford College (BA) and Webster University (MBA).