A new report from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) highlights the (significant) impact of outdoor recreation on state economies.
The state report follows the OIA’s national report, published earlier this year, which highlighted the $887 billion outdoor recreation industry. It also comes after the OIA locked horns with GOP leadership in Utah over the issue of Bears Ears National Monument, which led to the relocation of the Outdoor Retailer trade show from Salt Lake City to Denver.
The report highlights three categories: annual consumer spending in billions, direct jobs sustained through outdoor recreation and percentage of residents who participate in outdoor recreation activities.
Not surprisingly, every western state placed high on the list, with some interesting facts pertaining to each. In general, western states showed high consumer spending on outdoor recreation and high percentages of residents who participate in such activities. In Montana, for instance, an estimated 81% participates in outdoor recreation annually, with $7.1 billion in consumer spending.
According to an OIA press release, the report “offers a deeper look into a thriving sector that’s helping to create healthier economies and healthier communities.” More than that, however, it’s an attempt to bridge political dysfunction. From the press release:
“No matter your political affiliation, where you live or your walk of life, the outdoors brings us together,” said Amy Roberts, OIA executive director. “From Maine to California, consumers are spending more on outdoor recreation as millions of Americans depend on it for their livelihoods. Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic engine that contributes to businesses and healthy communities in each and every state and is a vital and sustainable sector that relies on investing in and protecting America’s public lands and waters.”
“The outdoor recreation economy continues to thrive across rural and urban America,” said REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke. “These new state-by-state numbers show how Americans from every corner of the country love to spend time outdoors. People from all backgrounds continue to hike, camp, boat, fish, ski, and paddle. You name it. It’s a rich part of the nation’s heritage. And when we follow our passion and opt outside, we create economic activity across all 50 states. This is a sustainable, growing sector of the economy — one that drives positive return-on-investment throughout the country.”
With the outdoor recreation economy poised to continue to grow, there are actions that can be taken to support its positive economic impact. OIA urges elected policymakers to do the following:
• Adequately fund state and local parks and trails to make them attractive and accessible to families and friends seeking to get outside.
• Take steps to raise awareness of the importance of the outdoor recreation economy.
• Develop and plan urban areas in a way that means every citizen can get outside and recreate within 30 minutes of their home.
• Support policies that encourage outdoor innovators to start businesses.
Outdoor Industry Association issued the first Outdoor Recreation Economy state-level report in 2012 and has made significant improvements to the report since then. This second edition of the state report takes a broader view of the growing industry and its shifting demographics. The sample that was drawn for this study was designed to represent the U.S. population on the basis of gender, age, education and race. Respondents were solicited through Survey Sampling International (SSI), a longtime leader in survey research. The report was made possible through the generous support of REI, Patagonia, The North Face, W.L. Gore, People for Bikes, The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) and The Outdoor Foundation.
The report comes as the industry’s political profile has rose, partly in response to conflicts like those over Bears Ears and by attempts by the Trump Administration to foster more energy development on public lands. Interestingly, it also comes after a bipartisan bill mandating that outdoor recreation be counted in the GDP became law last year.