This week, President Obama signed the REC Act into law, and we are stoked. The REC (Recreation’s Economic Contributions) Act will require the government to officially measure the impact of outdoor recreation on the U.S. economy, as it does in other sectors like pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, and healthcare.
This bill is a big deal for a few reasons. One, it officially recognizes outdoor recreation as an important sector of the economy. Two, it will give us better information about the economic impact of outdoor activities compared to other sectors, which is invaluable for elected officials to make informed policy decisions.
This data will help to illuminate the importance of outdoor recreation and protected public lands to communities across the West. As an example, this type of data could help inform Forest Plan revisions by making clear that recreation is as or more important to local and regional economies as extractive industries, helping to drive home to land managers and lawmakers the importance of protecting the places we play, not just for those of us who enjoy them, but for the economic health of entire communities. For a long time, extractive industries like timber and oil and gas have had lots of economic data to argue for their importance; now, the playing field will be more level, with advocates for public land in a better position to demonstrate the economic value of protecting wild places.