Every year, the government measures the size of a wide range of industries on the U.S. economy. These include oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, education, and so on. Currently, outdoor recreation is not one of those industries that the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) measures.
A few years ago, the Outdoor Industry Association did an independent study on the outdoor recreation economy, and the results have been widely used since then. Their team of researchers concluded that outdoor recreation contributes $646 billion to the U.S. economy each year and supports 6.1 million jobs.
Last week, Senator Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Gardner (R-CO) introduced a bill that would require the government to officially measure the impact of outdoor recreation on the U.S. economy. This bill, called Outdoor REC (Recreation’s Economic Contributions) Act, would officially recognize outdoor recreation as an important sector of the economy, and would give us better information about the economy impact of outdoor activities compared to other sectors.
This bipartisan bill is a great idea—good data drives good policy decisions, and it’s time that the outdoor recreation economy is measured like other sectors of the economy. Measuring the economy output of the outdoors will raise the policy profile of our community and will provide needed information on how businesses and cities rely on public lands. The Senators leading the charge on this legislation are bipartisan and bi-coastal, and well-positioned to explore the diverse impact of outdoor recreation on the U.S. economy. We appreciate the work of Senator Shaheen and Senator Gardner on this issue and look forward to the possibility of more detailed data on the outdoor recreation economy in the future.