National public lands are vital economic drivers in Western communities, strengthening outdoor recreation businesses and attracting new industries.
Outdoor Recreation is an Essential Part of the West’s Economy
The outdoor economy is an important economic driver to communities across the West. From national parks to national forests to national monuments, protected public lands are crucial to ensuring that the outdoor recreation industry remains a vibrant part of Western economies.
Every year, the outdoor recreation economy provides $887 billion in economic output nationwide, creates 7.6 million direct jobs, and generates $125 billion in tax revenue. Outdoor recreation and tourism provides rural communities—that may otherwise be dependent on the boom and bust cycles of energy development—an opportunity to diversify their businesses.
Many different types of industries depend on the outdoor economy, including companies that make recreation gear, local shops that serve tourists visiting national parks, and even non-recreation businesses that locate near mountains and spectacular places to provide a “competitive advantage” for hiring and retaining workers. In fact, research shows that in the West, protected public lands support faster rates of job growth and higher levels of per capita income.
Here are some key facts:
Outdoor recreation employs 7.6 million people, more than computer technology (6.7 million), construction (6.4 million), and finance and insurance (6.0 million).
American consumers spend more on outdoor recreation ($887 billion) than they do on pharmaceuticals ($446 billion), motor vehicles and parts ($465 billion), or gasoline and fuels ($304 billion).
483,000 Americans are directly employed by hunting and fishing—only 180,000 are employed in oil and gas extraction.
Outdoor recreation generates enough federal tax revenue to pay the annual wages of an estimated 1.3 million firefighters, 1.1 million police officers, or 1.2 million kindergarten teachers.
- An anti-public lands agenda can have significant and negative consequences for states that choose not to invest in the outdoor recreation economy.
- More than 350 outdoor businesses have urged Secretary Zinke to keep public lands protections to keep the outdoor economy healthy.