Trump’s new executive order will threaten an industry that employs over 7 million people

Ahead of Trump’s attacks on public lands, the data shows a massive economic contribution from the outdoor recreation industry.

Skiers in Inyo National Forest near Bishop, California. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brian Melley)
Skiers in Inyo National Forest near Bishop, California. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brian Melley)

A trade group representing the outdoor industry’s manufacturers, suppliers, and sales representatives released a report Tuesday that found the industry generates $887 billion in consumer spending each year.

“This report makes clear that the outdoor recreation economy is not only thriving, but a powerful economic force that embodies the American spirit,” Amy Roberts, executive director of The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), said in a statement.

She credited the country’s vast store of protected public lands as a critical piece of the industry’s success. “Public lands and waters are the foundation of this powerful economic force. By investing in and protecting America’s public lands and waters, we invest in our future and the continued well-being of America,” Roberts said.

But the group’s report came just a day before Donald Trump’s expected executive order to review lands that have been protected under the Antiquities Act.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke spoke at the report’s launch Tuesday, but his speech was surprisingly devoid of information on the outdoor industry, and he didn’t take questions. Nor did he address potential impacts on the industry from Trump’s expected order or from the Department of the Interior’s proposed 12 percent budget cut.

“Investment in outdoor industry is important, investment in how we produce energy, how we manage lands,” Zinke said. “All this and infrastructure requires an enormous amount of investment. And to make that investment we have to have rules that aren’t arbitrary. …. So we have to restore trust on the industry side of things.”

Trump’s administration is not the only threat the industry faces. In recent years Congress has repeatedly promoted steps to make it easier for the federal government to get rid of public lands.

The industry is aware of how close its relationship to public lands is. In February, after 20 years of hosting their bi-annual outdoor retailer show in Salt Lake City, decided to move it outside of the state over Utah politicians’ threats to sell off public lands and rescind Bears Ears National Monument.

OIA’s report found that outdoor recreation supports some 7.6 million jobs — more than the number of jobs in computer technology or construction. The report updates OIA’s 2013 analysis, finding that the economic impact of outdoor recreation grew by almost 40 percent in the last four years. The Department of the Interior also recently announced that 2016 saw a record 331 million visits to national parks.

In December, Congress passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act (REC Act) which called for the government to measure the significance of outdoor recreation to the U.S. economy and to count it in the nation’s GDP. That study has been delayed by a lack of funding.

Jenny Rowland is the research and advocacy manager for the public lands team at the Center for American Progress. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news site housed in the Center for American Progress Action Fund.