Thinking Green: Outdoor Recreation Sector Generates $887B Spend, 7.6M Jobs
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 03:06PM in Outdoor Industry Assn., Outdoor Recreation, Outdoor recreation, environment, spending

By Barry Janoff

April 25, 2017: With LA 2024 working hard to bring the Summer Games to the U.S. in seven years, and with the future of the environment being put in dire straits by decisions being made by the current administration, there might be more emphasis on maintaining and supporting the great outdoors in the U.S. than ever.

Calling it a "sector woven deep into the fabric of local communities nationwide," the outdoor recreation category generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually and sustains 7.6 million jobs in America.

In addition, the sector creates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue annually, according to the just released 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report from the Outdoor Industry Assn., Boulder, Col.

According to OIA, outdoor recreation covers such areas as hiking, fishing, mountain climbing,  surfing, camping, canoeing, hunting, skateboarding, horseback riding, running (three-plus miles), mountaineering, scuba diving, sailing, off-road motorcycling and motorbiking, biking, rock or ice climbing, skiing, kayaking, rafting, boating and wildlife viewing.

In the U.S., 48.6% of the population ages six+ participated in at least one outdoor recreational activity in 2016. That equates to 144 million participants who went on a total of 11 billion outdoor outings, according to OIA.

From 2015 to 2016, overall outdoor participation added 1.6 million participants.

Outdoor recreation on forest service lands alone "contributes more than $13 billion to the national economy and supports more than 205,000 jobs annually."

The outdoor categories that generate the most spend are trail sports, camping and water sports.

Each year, people in America spend more than $25 billion on trail sports gear, accessories and vehicles, and another $176 billion on travel related to those activities, topping $201 billion, according to OIA.

Camping generates more than $31 billion on gear, accessories and vehicles and $136 billion in related travel, nearly $167 billion total.

Water sports takes in $29 billion in gear, accessories and vehicles and $111 billion in related travel, hitting $140 billion.

The Top Ten also includes wheel sports ($97 billion total), snow sports ($73 billion), motorcycling ($64 billion), off-roading ($52 billion), fishing ($36 billion), wildlife watching ($30 billion) and hunting ($27 billion).

Broken down geographically, South Atlantic states generate $179.1 billion on outdoor recreation, Pacific states $149.6 billion, East North Central $110.3 billion, Mountain $104.5 billion, Middle Atlantic states $89.8 billion, West South Central $85.2 billion, West North Central $60.4 billion, East South Central $56.4 billion and New England $51.5 billion.

Earlier this year, OIA launched a multi-media marketing effort, "Together We Are A Force," which illustrates the "strength in numbers the outdoor industry possesses when it comes to tackling important issues such as climate change, trade policy and the health and wellness benefits of getting kids outside."

"From the smallest rural towns to the most densely populated cities, outdoor recreation makes America stronger," Amy Roberts, OIA executive director, said in a statement. "This report makes clear that the outdoor recreation economy is not only thriving, but a powerful economic force that embodies the American spirit.

"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. Together, we can thrive outside," said Roberts.

"From the smallest rural towns to the most densely populated cities, outdoor recreation makes America stronger."

According to OIA, the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy is a "mandate if we are to turn America’s natural resources over too the next generations increased, not impaired, in value."

OIA is emploring policymakers to:

1. Protect America’s lands and waters, the assets that are the foundation of the outdoor recreation economy.

2. Invest in local and federal recreation infrastructure and programs to ensure all Americans have access to public lands and waters.

3. Promote outdoor recreation as part of community and public health policy and programming.

The report was made possible with the "generous support" of REI, Patagonia, The North Face, W.L. Gore, People for Bikes, The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Outdoor Foundation.

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