Mea­sur­ing, pro­tect­ing and sup­port­ing the out­door in­dus­try

The Denver Post - - NEWS | DENVER & THE WEST -

Coloradans al­ready know, in­tu­itively, what a big role the out­door recre­ation in­dus­try plays in driv­ing the econ­omy. Less ap­pre­ci­ated in Wash­ing­ton, how­ever, is how con­sumer spend­ing in that sec­tor of the econ­omy sup­ports, or could sup­port, the con­ser­va­tion of public lands and wild an­i­mals.

But thanks to pas­sage of the Out­doors Recre­ation Jobs and Eco­nomic Im­pact Act, spon­sored by Sen. Cory Gard­ner, R-Colo., the en­tire coun­try will now know, em­pir­i­cally, the true dol­lar value of that in­dus­try.

It’s kind of a big deal. The bill would cat­e­go­rize recre­ation spend­ing as its own in­dus­try, just as other in­dus­tries are de­fined sep­a­rately in the an­nual cal­cu­la­tion of the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. The value of that data, and its abil­ity to in­flu­ence pol­icy-mak­ers, could be in­valu­able to a state that is con­stantly fight­ing the bat­tle of pro­tect­ing public lands from de­vel­op­ment. Armed with stat­ics that show de­mand from cus­tomers could help make sure pro­tected lands can grow and re­main pro­tected.

Part of the pres­sure to open up fed­eral lands to oil and gas drilling, to log­ging or even to re­new­able en­ergy projects is the de­sire to help drive the econ­omy. It’s eas­ier to push back on those pres­sures if the eco­nomics of open­ing up those same lands to all types of recre­ation is quan­tifi­able. Whether it’s ski­ing, bik­ing, fish­ing or even recre­ational ve­hi­cles like snow­mo­bil­ing, boat­ing or four wheel­ing, those are dol­lars be­ing spent in Colorado and across the na­tion.

Re­porter Ja­son Blevins put it well in a re­cent Den­ver Post sto- ry: “Now, out­door in­dus­try lead­ers will have hard num­bers to back up their busi­ness. The math is ex­pected to show that recre­ation is a vi­tal pil­lar to a strong econ­omy.” The bill is now headed to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who is ex­pected to sign it into law.

Out­door in­dus­tries need the sup­port of law­mak­ers and lead­ers just like other in­dus­tries that both sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum are so care­ful to foster. Take Osprey Packs in Cortez. The back­pack com­pany was founded by Cal­i­for­ni­ans in 1974 and re­lo­cated to Colorado in 1990. To­day the com­pany em­ploys about 88 peo­ple in the state, an­other 50 abroad and has plans to ex­pand its world head­quar­ters next year in the small south­west­ern Colorado town.

The packs they sell in 66 coun­tries world­wide are among the best on the market. Un­der the leg­is­la­tion, a por­tion or even all of those re­tail sales would likely be counted un­der out­door recre­ation. For a re­gion in the state that is still re­cov­er­ing from the eco­nomic down­turn, and now strug­gling with the stag­na­tion of oil and gas op­er­a­tions, Osprey Packs is a bright spot.

Now con­sider the big­ger pic­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2014 Colorado Statewide Com­pre­hen­sive Out­door Recre­ation Plan, Colorado public lands sup­port 313,404 di­rect jobs and $34.5 bil­lion in eco­nomic out­put.

We ap­plaud Gard­ner’s work to get the bill through the House and the Se­nate in bi­par­ti­san fash­ion and we can’t wait to see the fi­nal num­bers and dig into the pos­i­tive im­pact recre­ation has in our great state.

Daniel Petty, Den­ver Post file

Hik­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers and vis­i­tors gather at Ma­roon Lake to pho­to­graph the Ma­roon Bells at sunrise.

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