Measuring, protecting and supporting the outdoor industry
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.
Hikers, photographers and visitors gather at Maroon Lake to photograph the Maroon Bells at sunrise.