Issues

September 11, 2012 - Center for Western Priorities

Recreation and Public Lands—The West’s Economic Driver

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Recreation and tourism is an important component of Western economies, delivering quality jobs and enhancing local tax bases.

  • People are attracted to the Rocky Mountain West because of unparalleled access to the great outdoors. It is unsurprising then, that outdoor recreation is so important to economies throughout the region. Every year, millions travel to the West’s national parks and national forests to hunt, fish, hike, ski, bike, off-road, view wildlife, and relax.
  • In 2011, Americans spent more on outdoor recreation—$645.6 billion—than on pharmaceuticals ($331 billion), motor vehicles and parts ($340 billion), gasoline and other fuels ($354 billion), or household utilities ($309 billion). Money spent on outdoor recreation rivaled spending on financial services and insurance ($780 billion) and outpatient health care ($767 billion).[i]
  • Recreation is a particularly important component of Western economies. Of the $645.6 billion spent on outdoor recreation in the United States, $255.6 billion—almost for 40% of the total—was spent in Western states.[ii]
  • According to the Western Governors Association, in 2011 outdoor recreation spending in the West produced:
$15.41 billion in Federal tax receipts  |  $15.38 billion in state and local tax receipts [iii]