New Studies Reveal Vast Economic Impact Of Outdoor Recreation On The Custer Gallatin National Forest In Montana
November 28, 2018 (Bozeman, MT) – Human-powered outdoor recreation is a major economic engine on the Custer Gallatin National Forest. That's the conclusion of a new series of studies commissioned by the Outdoor Alliance and conducted by researchers from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU).
The reports, which examine the economic impact of paddling, climbing, hiking, snowsports, and mountain biking on the Custer Gallatin National Forest, shows that outdoor recreation generates $223 million annually for surrounding communities in southern Montana, while supporting 2,172 full-time jobs.
“Everyone knows that Montana's public lands draw visitors from across the globe,” said Adam Cramer Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance. “What is probably news to most is that the amazing backcountry skiing, mountain biking, paddling and climbing in Montana's National Forests also generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact to local Montana communities. As the Custer Gallatin National Forest works with the public to create a new forest plan, we are excited to share our research and other insights about how best to incorporate human powered recreation in way that is ecologically and socially sustainable, and economically empowering for local communities in Montana.”
The studies highlight just how vital outdoor recreation is across the Custer Gallatin’s 1.8 million acres. The results come as the Forest Service is updating the plans that guide the management of these forests for the next 15 to 20 years. Outdoor Alliance commissioned these studies to illustrate why human-powered recreation deserves to be a top priority for the Forest Service as it completes new management plans for the Custer Gallatin in the coming months.
The report’s authors found that paddlers, climbers, hikers, skiers, and mountain bikers who visit the Custer Gallatin National Forest generate more than $223 million in annual visitor spending. This economic activity helps support 2,172 local jobs — yielding almost $65.7 million in annual income.
“I have been managing two outdoor recreation businesses out of Red Lodge, Montana, for almost a decade,” said Austin Hart, who owns Beartooth Mountain Guides and Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Area. “Over this time, my businesses have grown from me in my house to having fourteen seasonal and full-time employees that help manage brick-and-mortar spaces in Red Lodge. The research from Outdoor Alliance proves what I have observed over the years – outdoor recreation is a key driver of local economies, attracting visitors and benefiting the community and local residents.”
The Custer Gallatin National Forest’s unparalleled access to outdoor recreation attracts a diverse array of residents in the Bozeman area, working in fields from healthcare to tech. In fact, more than 93 percent of survey respondents cite access to outdoor recreation as a key reason for living here.
“When I chose to settle in Bozeman, the Custer Gallatin National Forest and the access it provides to outstanding outdoor recreation was a deciding factor. The Custer Gallatin is home to incredible climbing, which I enjoy in my time away from my career as an engineer, and as a climbing guide. Climbing has always been a draw for people living in Bozeman, and these reports show the impressive economic impact of these activities," said Nadav Oakes, a Bozeman-based climbing guide and engineer.
The studies, led by Dr. James Maples and Dr. Michael Bradley of EKU, focus on five categories of outdoor recreation– rock climbing, paddling, hiking, snowsports, and mountain biking. "From the Beartooths to the Bridgers and beyond, the Custer Gallatin National Forest provides outdoor fun in all seasons. The outdoor recreation opportunities afforded by this forest attract residents and visitors to communities from West Yellowstone to Billings and help drive our outdoor recreation economy," said Hilary Eisen, Winter Wildlands Alliance Policy Director, Gallatin Forest Partnership member, and Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition board member.
The researchers found that rock climbers visit the Custer Gallatin about 35,000 times each year, spending an estimated $2.6 million, and supporting $719k in job income.
Paddlers visit the Custer Gallatin about 59,500 times each year, spending an estimated$8.4 million, and supporting $2.6 in job income.
For hikers, more than 2 million visits per year generates $125 million in spending, supports 1,186 jobs, and $46 million in job income.
Snowsports visitors, including skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, winter hiking, and other winter recreation, come to the Custer Gallatin 587,000 each year, spending $86 million, supporting nearly 900 jobs, and more than $24 million in wages.
Finally, the researchers found that mountain bikers visited the Custer Gallatin National Forest more than 260,000 times each year, spending an estimated $9.1 million and supporting $3.4 million in job income.
About Outdoor Alliance
Outdoor Alliance is a nonprofit coalition of organizations that include American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, Access Fund, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, The Mountaineers, American Alpine Club, the Mazamas, and Surfrider Foundation. Outdoor Alliance unites backcountry skiers, hikers, paddlers, mountain bikers, boaters, and climbers who share a commitment to protecting public lands. For more information, visit outdooralliance.org.
Tania Lown-Hecht, Outdoor Alliance / Communications Director
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