Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner deserves praise and congratulations for passage of his bill, the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act, in November. The bill — co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH — passed the House and Senate unanimously, reflecting bipartisan consensus all too rare in Washington, D.C.
Far more important than any personal accolades, however, is what this bill will do to elevate the outdoor industry in the minds of politicians, economists and the general public — and to generate new, reliable data on the impact of the sector on the U.S. economy.
Building on an April announcement by the Secretary of the Interior that the Federal Recreation Council would work with the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis to measure the impact of outdoor recreation on the economy, the new law codifies that analysis, mandating that the outdoor industry’s economic impact be included in calculations of gross domestic product.
Gardner touted passage of the bill in a press release: “The House’s approval of the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act represents a step forward toward ensuring that the outdoor recreation industry’s impact on the economy is measured. This is important not only to states like Colorado, but to communities throughout the country who also know outdoor recreation as a way of life,” Gardner said. “My bill will highlight the industry’s economic benefit and allow policymakers to make more informed decisions.”
That impact is staggering, estimated at $646 billion in consumer spending and supporting 6.1 million jobs nationally, according to a 2012 study commissioned by the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association. In Colorado alone, outdoor recreation is estimated to generate $13.2 billion in consumer spending and supports 124,600 jobs.
Colorado is recognized as a mecca for the outdoor industry, with Boulder, Denver and communities around the state incubating companies and gaining exposure nationally and internationally. Obtaining annual, detailed data — GDP data is available down to the metropolitan statistical area level — will provide invaluable insights on how the outdoor industry contributes to local economies.
And the data will quantify subsectors of the outdoor economy, including hunting, skiing, bicycling, climbing and many others. Such data will inform economic-development and conservation strategies nationwide, with the first report available by the end of 2018.
We look forward to that first data release, and the insights that it will bring to this important sector.