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Support the Economy—Get Outside!

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Glacier National Park; Photograph by Teresa Cronin, My Shot

When you head out outdoors to play, do you ever consider how you’re fueling the economy? Think about it. Sure, there’s the gear you buy—jackets, shoes, gloves, base layers, water bottles, skis, bikes, kayaks, fishing rods, carabiners, crampons, binoculars, car racks or whatever it is you need to equip yourself for adventure.

But that’s not all. You also spend money to put gas in your car. You buy snacks for your pack and perhaps stop for a bite along the way. You might get a hotel room, purchase gifts for your family, or spring for a souvenir. You might pay for a rafting trip or hire a guide. The truth is that for every $1 Americans spend on gear for outdoor recreation, they spend an additional $4 on trips and travel-related expenses along the way. And this adds up. Trust me.

Nationally this makes outdoor recreation a huge driver of the U.S. economy. It’s way more significant that most people realize, to the tune of:

  • $646 billion in direct spending each year
  • 6.1 million direct American jobs
  • Nearly $80 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue annually

How do I know this? Because last year Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) came out with The Outdoor Recreation Economy, an eye-opening research report that tallies up what we all spend on outdoor recreation each year.

And it gets even better. Now you can learn how important outdoor recreation is in your state. OIA just released state-by-state numbers quantifying the economic impact of outdoor recreation in all 50 states, including direct spending, jobs, salaries, and tax revenue. It was a lot of work, but a logical follow-up to the national data.

It’s important that states realize how important outdoor recreation is to their economies. Why? Because major decisions are based on this sort of data. Do you want your state to provide adequate funding for parks? Do you want a vibrant network of open spaces areas? Do you enjoy having trails near your home where you can work your legs, let off steam and breathe in fresh air? All of these things create vibrant, healthy communities, and attract families and businesses who want ready access to the outdoors.

I think it’s safe to say that having a variety of awesome outdoor places to play is sort of like having a piggy bank in your backyard. People come. They play. They spend.

The fact of the matter is that outdoor recreation drives the economy. And economics talk. When you talk money, decision makers listen.

I invite you to check out the new state reports on our website. You can use this data to gain support for public lands. Perhaps you’ll have a referendum on your ballot that asks citizens to help fund local parks. Or your city council members are deciding whether or not to buy more open space. Or your state leaders are making key budget decisions that affect state-owned lands where you get outside and play. Our reports can help you make the case for protecting and enhancing outdoor recreation experiences in your state.

Because when it comes down to it, investing in a network of public lands and waters is an investment in the future of our country. Our parks, waters, and trails produce substantial dividends for our citizens, communities, and businesses.

So check out the reports. Download the one for your state. In the coming weeks, we’ll be adding even more resources to help you make a case for outdoor recreation in your backyard. Thanks for helping.

Avery Stonich is communications manager for Outdoor Industry Association. Follow us on twitter: @OIA and @averystonich.