New Outdoor Industry Data Show The Power Of The Recreation Economy In Every State

By Jessica Goad

The outdoor recreation economy is big business in America. Data released today by the Outdoor Industry Association show the fiscal impacts of recreation in all 50 states, from consumer spending to direct jobs to wages and salaries. The top five states for consumer spending on outdoor recreation are: California ($85.4 billion), Florida ($38.3 billion), New York ($33.8 billion), Texas ($28.7 billion), and Georgia ($23.3 billion).

Additionally, every state in the union benefits from between 28,000 direct jobs (North Dakota) to 732,000 direct jobs (California) in the industry.

In total, outdoor recreation provides $646 billion in economic impacts and 6.1 million direct jobs every year (three times that of the oil and gas industry). These data incorporate the various sectors the outdoor recreation industry relies on, including manufacturing, retail and sales, transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and services near outdoor recreation sites.

A number of western state legislatures are attempting to “reclaim” federal public lands in order to exploit their resources more easily. But Frank Hugelmeyer, CEO of the Outdoor Industry Association, noted that for the industry’s economic influence to increase, political leaders must balance the use of public lands for energy while implementing policies that protect them:

Outdoor recreation is good for the American economy and our future. When we invest in the nation’s network of public lands and waters, we are protecting and enhancing outdoor experiences for the benefit of the thousands of businesses, communities and families whose livelihoods depends on the outdoor recreation economy.

More than 140 million Americans participate in some sort of outdoor activity every year. While the value of such recreation has long been suspected, only in the last several years has it actually been quantified. As Greg Hanscom writes in Grist:

After decades of being blown off as dirty hippie backpacker types, [environmentalists]  can finally declare, with a straight face and data to back them up, that protecting the public lands from oil and gas drilling and other ecological insults is not just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business.

The release of today’s data is also notable because just last week, President Obama nominated Sally Jewell, CEO of outdoor retailer REI, to be his new Secretary of the Interior. Jewell has been an impassioned advocate for the value of this industry, and many expect her to continue to make the business case for conservation when she takes the reins of the Interior Department.

Making strides on permanently protecting public lands will be an important priority for both Congress and the administration over the next few years, especially in the midst of our current energy boom. The Center for American Progress recently released data showing the Obama administration has leased 2.5 more acres to oil and gas companies than it has permanently protected.

The economic case for putting energy and conservation on equal ground has never been clearer, as data like those released today show.

Jessica Goad is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

10 Responses to New Outdoor Industry Data Show The Power Of The Recreation Economy In Every State

  1. Leif says:

    Not to mention the environmental benefits of clean water and air, diverse ecosystems for plants and animals, oxygen, and all the rest not accounted for in the socially enabled capitalistic paradigm.

  2. fj says:

    Yes, this demonstrates that you can have a high quality of life with a low cost of living; sort of an Eden Concept and, perhaps, further demonstation of prosperity without growth.

  3. fj says:

    Minimum wage also addresses the deep importance of human capital for designing the future:

    Profound integration with natural capital with human capital as the most important component.

  4. fj says:

    Education is one of the best ways to increase human capital. Poverty eradication is another.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And the health improvements that exercise and immersion in clean air and natural beauty can induce. Unfortunately, the capitalist medical-industrial complex doesn’t do ‘prevention’, it not being very profitable, and much prefer sluggards sitting at home and eating crap.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, it is a sad comment on ‘civilization’ that any spirituality or sense of aesthetics is ignored and outdoor recreation (the re-creation of the human spirit) is valued only when it is ‘good for business’, ME

  7. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Kids increase in IQ in direct correlation with the amount of time they spend outdoors, regardless of any activity during that time. What’s the going price of a point of IQ? ME

  8. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    I can’t help but point out the irony of having people drive or fly thousands of miles to spend a few days or weeks to recreate. I live in Moab, Utah, and outdoor recreation is about the only economy here. How much pollution is created by people coming here from New York or Cal or even Europe (lots of them here) to ride a mountain bike or raft for a few days? The irony strieks me every time I see the town crawling with tourists from all over the world. Of course, we’re not the only area like this, it goes on worldwide. I personally find it disturbing, especially when so many of them say they’re green. Why can’t we recreate closer to home (I know, easy for me to say)?

  9. Ken Barrows says:

    Exactly. The question is how much better is this alternative to oil and gas drilling and is it enough to address climate.

    I went to Breckenridge, CO (from Denver) to ski for the second time in my life last Friday. Drove with a friend about 190 miles round trip. Saw many big vehicles doing the same thing. Saw the constantly moving gondola. Heard some different languages. Not much public transit there. Is it worth it?

  10. fj says:

    Yes, this is true, and much more advanced net zero systems must be designed for high speeds and long distances to have minimal emissions and energy requirements, that would likely require dramatic reductions in vehicle size, weight and frictional loses.