In November 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act (‘Outdoor REC Act’). This bill directs the Department of Commerce - via the Bureau of Economic Analysis - to coordinate with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis in an effort to measure the outdoor recreation economy’s contribution to the overall U.S. economy.
Until the recent passage of the Outdoor REC Act, the federal government did not measure the outdoor recreation industry as it does the outputs of other economic sectors and outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States.
In September 2018, the BEA released updated statistics that show the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent ($412 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016. Also, real gross output, compensation, and employment all grew faster in outdoor recreation than in the overall economy in 2016.
Most of this outdoor recreation takes place on public lands and waters. For mountain communities surrounded by and the gateway to public lands, the employment and business opportunities stemming from outdoor recreation are a core economic driver.
Now the federal government fully recognizes and records the economic benefits of outdoor recreation – just as it does every other major industry contributing to the GDP – communities dependent on outdoor recreation and surrounded by public lands have gained significant leverage in urging the government to invest in the maintenance of the land and water resources on which the outdoor industry relies.
This is especially true given the great challenges we face in the work of mitigating environmental degradation from climate change and irresponsible development, and given the ongoing challenge of securing adequate public investment to provide sustainable, high-quality outdoor recreation infrastructure that enables access without compromising the landscape.
The Mountain Pact
Sixteen towns sent letters to Congressional leadership on the importance of outdoor recreation to their local economies.
Fourteen chambers of commerce and economic development corporations signed onto a letter urging the Trump Administration to support the Bureau of Economic Development study quantifying economic contributions of the outdoor recreation industry.
Valley Valley Partnership's Chris Romer published an op-ed in the Denver Business Journal on February 3, 2017.
Whitefish City Council member, Richard Hildner, published an op-ed on February 20, 2017.
Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association president and CEO, Marianne Virgili, published and op-ed on July 23, 2017.
City Council Member Nathan Boddie from Bend, Oregon published an op-ed on July 29, 2017.
On February 14, 2018 the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a prototype report detailing the contribution of the outdoor recreation
industry to the overall United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
On September 20th, 2018 the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released updated statistics on economic contributions from the outdoor industry.
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