April 08, 2015

Wyden, Klobuchar Call on Administration to Conduct National Report Detailing Economic Benefits of Outdoor Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., today called on the Interior and Commerce Departments to conduct a national report detailing the economic benefits of our country’s outdoor economy. While the federal government currently collects certain data on the benefits of the outdoor economy, we lack clear and comprehensive data on its contributions to growth and job creation at the national level. In a letter to the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce and the Interior, Wyden and Klobuchar urged the administration to undertake a new nationwide study that will provide businesses and policymakers with the data they need to make informed decisions and ensure our outdoor economy continues to thrive.

“It comes as no surprise to Oregonians that outdoor recreation can be as beneficial to local economies as it is to our way of life,” Wyden said. “From the Pacific Crest Trail, to the banks of the Sandy River and from the Oregon Caves to Crater Lake, Oregon’s vast array of outdoor recreation opportunities creates jobs and bolsters rural businesses. Sen. Klobuchar and I are asking the administration to make sure entrepreneurs all across the country have the information they need to make the most out of what’s already there and so Americans can put their money where their hiking boots are.”

“Minnesotans understand how critical outdoor recreation is to our economy,” Klobuchar said. “When people fish in our lakes and streams and hunt in our forests and fields, that translates to more jobs and economic activity in our state. Unfortunately, right now we don’t have a comprehensive picture of how these activities contribute to economic growth at the national level. By launching a nationwide study of the benefits of outdoor recreation, we can arm businesses and policymakers with the data they need to make smart decisions and ensure our outdoor economy continues to thrive.”

A full text of the letter 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.

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