The outdoor recreation economy is a force that is here to stay
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As Americans across the country continue to recreate outdoors, the outdoor industry’s impressive growth over the last decade shows no signs of slowing. In fact, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) just this week announced the new Outdoor Recreation Economy report, which shows an $887 billion annual contribution to the U.S. economy that support 7.6 million American jobs and adds $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue. 

These extraordinary numbers solidify outdoor recreation’s economic importance not only to the nation’s GDP but also as a strong, reliable thread woven deep in the fabric of local economies across the nation.  In concert with the release of our economic report this week, Congress announced both a House and Senate Outdoor Recreation Caucus led by Sens. Jim RischJim RischBipartisan push to prioritize cyber advice for small businesses Five questions after Comey’s testimony Comey delivers dramatic rebuke of Trump MORE (R-Idaho.) and Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichNew legislation tells fourth graders to take a hike Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity The Memo: Five takeaways from Jeff Sessions’s testimony MORE (D-N.M.) and Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) – bolstering the fact that the outdoor recreation economy plays a foundational economic and employment role across the nation.

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OIA is the trade association for the outdoor industry representing over 1200 outdoor retail manufacturers, businesses and retailers.  OIA represents brands ranging from The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia and W.L. Gore to hunting and fishing brands like Simms and Reddington.

Our members include national retailers such as REI and Cabela’s and hundreds of small retailers in communities across the country. 

Given the anticipated Executive Order from the administration about monument designations this week, the power of the outdoor recreation economy is a timely discussion. We are deeply concerned about the order and our hope is that no one seeks to rollback or dilute over 100 years of history and protection for our nation’s public lands through the Antiquities Act. Monuments, many of which have become national parks, have created economic prosperity and jobs in local communities for decades.

The vast majority of Americans value their national parks and monuments and want these lands protected. Negatively impacting national monuments will be extremely unpopular with the American people and will take away economic opportunity from communities that need it the most. 

This week, more than 120 outdoor industry executives are visiting our nation’s capitol during our largest ever Capitol Summit event. We will be meeting with elected officials, sportsmen and other outdoor-minded organizations to discuss issues impacting our industry and to reinforce the size and impact of the outdoor recreation economy. Our message is simple: outdoor recreation has become a major economic force generating investment and jobs all across the country. 

Placing the outdoor recreation economy numbers in perspective, annual consumer spending on outdoor recreation outpaces that of consumer spending on motor vehicles and parts, and nearly doubles consumer spending on pharmaceuticals.

Given these substantial economic and jobs numbers, it is no surprise that our industry has taken a strong stand on a central issue that sustains the outdoor recreation industry and economy – investment, access to and enhancement of our public lands infrastructure.  We believe that thoughtful investment in public lands and waters and responsible management and access are also an investment in our industry, the nation, and in healthy economies and healthy communities across the United States. Monuments and other protected lands underpin the outdoor recreation economy and are proven to be a powerful economic driver in communities across the U.S.

OIA also recognizes there are challenges nationally and locally to addressing public lands and waters recreation issues and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to management. The communities across the nation where our members work and own their businesses, or where Americans recreate recognize the wisdom in balancing traditional public land and water economies such as agriculture and extraction revenues with management that includes activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, skiing and more.

This is why we are here this week. Our leaders are excited to be hiking the halls of Congress, reinforcing the impact the outdoor recreation economy has on our nation, our cities, our towns and rural areas, how the protection and balanced management of our public lands and waters infrastructure plays a vital role in the nation’s economic health and the need for long-term funding through appropriations for the very land agencies that are the stewards of our public lands and waters. 

In an era when our nation’s population is extremely polarized ideologically, the outdoors has proven to be a unifying force that brings families and communities together. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact (REC) Act with unanimous, bipartisan support, marking an important milestone for the outdoor industry. Signed into law by former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaDem senator: Trump's 'icky' Boy Scout speech left 'my stomach in knots' Boos for Obama as Trump speaks at Boy Scout jamboree Feehery: Winning August MORE, the law ensures the outdoor recreation economy is counted as part of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

And while the magnitude of the outdoor recreation economy’s financial impact is undeniable and no one can ignore the millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars the sector creates, we also know that outdoor recreation contributes to lower health care costs, reduced crime rates and better academic performance among young people. It really is a force, based on solid and healthy public lands and waters, and together – as Republicans, Independents and Democrats – we should work to bolster it for our generation and the next.

Roberts is Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.