November 29, 2016

Wyden-Backed Bill to Detail Economic Benefits of Outdoor Recreation Economy to Become Law

Following push from Wyden, agencies to report the economic benefits of America’s outdoor recreation economy

 Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., applauded the Senate’s passage this week of bipartisan legislation that he pushed to study the economic benefits of outdoor recreation. The Outdoor Recreation’s Economic Contributions (REC) Act would inform policymakers and business leaders on the number of jobs created and the amount of consumer spending driven by the U.S. outdoor recreation economy. 

Last year, Wyden and Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sent a letter urging the administration to conduct this study to provide businesses and policymakers with the data they need to help ensure that America’s outdoor economy continues to thrive. Following the letter from Wyden and Klobuchar, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced in April that it would work with the U.S. Department of Commerce to produce a national report detailing the economic benefits of outdoor recreation.

The Outdoor REC Act now goes to the president to be signed into law, ensuring that no matter who is in the White House, outdoor recreation business leaders will get the information they need to grow their businesses.

“Outdoor recreation produces big economic benefits throughout all parts of Oregon and is an essential piece of our way of life,” Wyden said. “I’ve pushed for this report because it will give entrepreneurs in Oregon and across the country the information they must have to make the most out of these outdoor recreation opportunities that generate jobs and business growth in rural and urban areas."

Wyden also included a similar economic study in his Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (RNR Act), which would require the federal land management agencies to study the impact that outdoor recreation on federal lands has on the economy.  Senator Wyden introduced the RNR Act with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. earlier this year. In addition to the economic study, the RNR Act would remove bureaucratic roadblocks to public lands and expand outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans.

The Senate version of the Outdoor REC Act, which Wyden co-sponsored, was introduced by Senators Cory Gardner, R-Colo. and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.  The legislation would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis to account for the impact of the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry in their publicly available reports.

The full text of last April’s letter from Wyden and Klobuchar is below.

Dear Secretaries Pritzker and Jewell:

Americans treasure the outdoors and our nation’s businesses and entrepreneurs have been at the forefront of establishing critical partnerships to foster growth and ensure the strength and viability of our outdoor economy. It is time that the United States government recognizes this critical sector by measuring the full economic impact of the outdoors.

The federal agencies you lead are focused on promoting commerce, recreation, tourism and economic development, as well as protecting our natural treasures. In addition, your leadership as Co-Chairs of the National Travel and Tourism Strategy Task Force position you to effectively advocate for the importance of an outdoor economy that has had a positive impact on jobs, consumer spending, innovation and stewardship of natural resources. However, despite an estimated $646 billion spent annually on outdoor recreation and $621 billion in direct spending from travel and tourism, our country still lacks a comprehensive national picture of the benefits of our robust outdoor economy.

We encourage you to build on the progress your agencies have made by working with other key federal agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Forest Service to assist in collecting data and information showing the economic benefits of the outdoor economy. In addition to working with other federal partners, your agencies should utilize a public-private partnership with industry stakeholders to support this important study. By collaborating and using the existing statistical resources available, your agencies can address the lack of information on the outdoor economy’s national impact and ensure our nation’s lands and waters are fully recognized for their vital contributions to the economy.

Our outdoor natural resources are the envy of the world and American businesses have long partnered with and benefited from access to these areas. Over the next year it is expected that our National Parks will see a growth in visitors from across the country and around the world to celebrate the National Park Centennial in 2016. The Centennial is not just a celebration of our past achievements. It should be seen as an opportunity to look at how these unique public outdoor spaces can be preserved and made more accessible to visitors for the next hundred years.

A national study on the benefits of the outdoor economy is an important tool for both policymakers and businesses and we understand the need for accurate data about all aspects of our economy in order to promote policies that support economic growth. A national study will also benefit outdoor-focused businesses that rely on accurate and substantial data to inform their decisions and reach consumers. For example, retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, lodges and even small tackle shops often consider their proximity to outdoor spaces when choosing where to locate. Large or small, businesses need to have information to guide their decisions to bring goods and services to market.

Americans understand the importance of outdoor recreation to the economy. Our many successful outdoor-focused businesses are proof of the economic benefits that our lakes, rivers, wetlands, wilderness areas, and forests provide. The economic benefits of the outdoor economy also go beyond the transactional benefits. By encouraging access to open spaces, we are promoting a healthy lifestyle, providing educational opportunities for students, and creating jobs. It is time to take a full account of all of these benefits to our economy and that starts with accurate and comprehensive measurements.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue and we look forward to working with you to promote and accurately reflect the benefits of our outdoor economy.