According to a new analysis conducted by the US Department of Commerce, outdoor recreation was worth $373.7 billion in 2016, comprising 2 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This analysis, which is the first of its kind, found that the outdoor industry is larger than the oil, gas, and mining industries combined—by a substantial margin! Fossil fuels made up 1.4 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2016. And the outdoor industry is just getting started. Compared to the overall growth of the economy in 2016, the outdoor recreation economy grew by a full percent point more (3.8 percent versus 2.8 percent).
The mere fact that federal economists are paying attention to these numbers for the first time in US history shows the power that the outdoor recreation industry is gaining both in Washington, DC and on Wall Street. This new designation from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis for outdoor recreation puts it on par with sectors like tourism, health care, and the arts.
“The Department of Commerce’s new report on outdoor recreation confirms what we in Washington already knew: that Americans love being in nature, and are willing to spend their hard-earned wages on outdoor experiences,” said Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition Executive Director Christine Mahler.
And this spending isn’t limited to one area of outdoor recreation. According to the report, 2016 spending on outdoor recreation can be broken into a number of different categories, including, but not limited to:
- Motorized vehicles (including recreational vehicles like RVs and motorcycles): $59.3 billion
- Boating and fishing: $38.2 billion
- Equestrian: $12 billion
- Bicycling: $3.3 billion
- Backpacking/camping/climbing: $7.9 billion
- Hunting: $9.3 billion
- Other shooting/trapping: $6.1 billion
The Bureau of Economic Analysis cautions that these findings require more analysis before an updated/finalized report can be released in September 2018. In the meantime, the Bureau will look to the public, leaders in business, and industry experts to review this first analysis and confirm its validity and methodology.
The report is the result of legislation introduced by US Senator Cory Gardner (CO-R) and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2016.
The powerful numbers released in the report are important tools for conservationists and public lands activists across the nation. The preservation of public lands is a hot-button topic in today’s world, especially with the Trump administration’s proposal to open significant US federal lands to development.
And while the outdoor recreation industry’s power in DC is growing, the $8 million spent on lobbying for outdoor recreation pales in comparison to the $125 million spent on lobbying by the oil and gas industry. Still, it is a good start to protecting public lands across the US.
“Our nation’s wild places are of critical value to the happiness and health of the American people,” said Mahler. “We hope these new findings will put pressure on the government to preserve important public lands programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that protect critical outdoor recreation areas, including iconic places in Washington like Mount Rainier, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, and the Olympic National Park.”