It turns out the federal government doesn’t track how much people spend on outdoor recreation in America.
Industry experts think people spend $646 billion a year to do things like hike, camp, ski and fish each year. That’s more money than the combined earnings of the construction, oil and natural gas industries.
But the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which studies the impact of major American industries on our economy, doesn’t research outdoor recreation.
That’s about to change.
The Outdoor REC Act, which is also known as the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act, unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives Monday.
The bill basically tells the BEA to quantify how much people spend on outdoor recreation and how many people the industry employs each year.
“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,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) said. “My bill will highlight the industry’s economic benefit and allow policymakers to make more informed decisions, and I look forward to continue working with [Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire)] to further advance this legislation.”
These decisions could include whether to lease, sell or protect public lands.
Gardner and Shaheen announced their bill in October 2015 and are working to secure its passage in the Senate.
“We are hopeful that it will pass in this Congress,” Alex Boian said, senior director of government affairs for the Outdoor Recreation Association.
Boian’s group conducted the 2012 study that came up with the $646 billion number. He says it’s been an important tool for people who support outdoor recreation, but there’s a difference in the way people see government data.
“They’re impartial. [The BEA] just produces government data,” Boian said. “That’s actually very important to the outdoor recreation industry.”