Public lands aren't just majestic; they add billions to the economy
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We mean business, but don't let our fancy shoes and suits fool you. Because we're really just playing around. We're playing as we climb our mountains, paddle our rivers and hike our trails.

And while we're having all this fun, we are also building a sustainable, prosperous economy.

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Together, our organizations and companies represent one of the best parts about the United States: our outdoor recreation economy. This piece of the American economic pie supports communities that surround public lands through outdoor recreation and tourism jobs.

In fact, the outdoor recreation economy generates $646 billion in consumer spending and supports 6.1 million jobs across the country every year.

That's why we were in Washington earlier this month to tell Congress and the Obama administration that we really do mean business. 

The timing could not be more urgent.

Every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development. And the U.S. Forest Service reports that across the country, we lose approximately 6,000 acres a day to development.

Protected public lands are important to the continued growth of the outdoor industry. That's why we are asking Congress to pass several broadly supported conservation bills. And we are urging President Obama to establish new national monuments that have been thoroughly vetted.

With not many congressional workdays left and less than three months before a new president is sworn into office, the time to invest in our future is now.

Across the country, from Tennessee to California, local communities have come together to ask their elected officials to protect their natural backyards. This includes 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. The Tennessee Wilderness Act was first introduced by Republican Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderOvernight Regulation: Trump's Labor nominee hints at updating overtime rule Trump's Labor pick signals support for overtime pay hike Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE and Bob CorkerBob CorkerRand Paul roils the Senate with NATO blockade Lawmakers want Trump commitment to help Iraq post-ISIS Trump needs a united front to win overseas MORE eight years ago and has strong support in Tennessee from sportsmen, veterans, small-business owners and many others.

We're also advocating for the protection of 245,665 acres of new and expanded wilderness in California's Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument. The California Central Coast Heritage Protection Act would also protect 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers and designate the Condor National Recreation Trail.

We're pounding the pavement for 126,000 acres of wilderness and 469 river miles on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act would preserve salmon streams and wild lands adjacent to Olympic National Park.

We're also urging Congress to pass the Oregon Wildlands Act, which would secure wilderness protection for 107,800 acres in the Wild Rogue and Devil's Staircase areas. It would also designate 252 miles of wild and scenic rivers and preserve 119,120 acres of the Rogue Canyon and Molalla rivers as national recreation areas, and protect the Chetco River from mining activity.

Congress has failed to act on some conservation measures that can still be protected through executive action. We urge the president to designate new national monuments protecting the Bears Ears in Utah, the Grand Canyon watershed in Arizona, Gold Butte in Nevada, the Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. We also call on the president to expand Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the California Coastal National Monument.

Each of these special places offers world-class recreation opportunities, and each has been proposed for protection through the Congress.

Americans in every part of the country understand that public lands are essential to their quality of life, and provide the ideal setting for their outdoor recreation. Protected public lands are vital to our economy, and to our way of life.

While other nations are known for their art, architecture and food, we are known for our protected public lands.

As representatives of some of the largest outdoor recreation businesses and advocacy groups in the country, we ask Congress and the Obama administration to preserve our lands and waters for future generations to enjoy.

Small businesses that sell our products will continue to grow and hire new staff. Their success will spur further economic growth in the form of more hotels and restaurants, hospitals and libraries, and Main Street shops.

Investing in America's public lands is a smart business decision. We hope our elected officials in Congress and the White House act this year.

Cole is director of environmental campaigns and advocacy at Patagonia. Blackburn is corporate communications and advocacy manager at KEEN Footwear. Balfour is director of marketing at Superfeet Worldwide. Sterling is executive director of The Conservation Alliance.


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