Policy Watch

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) thanked Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Joint Economic Committee Democrats on June 26, 2018 for their recognition of the importance of outdoor recreation to the economic health of rural America.

The Senators recently released a wide-ranging report, Investing in Rural America, which examines a multitude of steps that the Committee Democrats believe can be taken to revitalize rural communities across the nation. Specifically, the report contains a section on Public Lands which acknowledges that outdoor recreation, which includes hunting, fishing, motorized and non-motorized trail usage, boating, RVing, camping and snow sports is an economic powerhouse and is vital to the health and economic well-being of America's rural communities.

ORR believes that both public and private sector investments in modernizing and expanding outdoor recreation facilities and visitor services will lead to growth in rural jobs, consumer spending, local tourism and income levels for rural residents engaged in the lodging, food and beverage, guide and outfitter, and gas and oil sectors. The expanded use of public-private partnerships serves as an effective tool to supplement public financing of deferred maintenance and infrastructure projects on and around public lands.

“Outdoor recreation access is critical to reenergizing the economy in rural communities in the decades ahead. Our industry already comprises 2 percent of U.S. GDP, and commonsense outdoor recreation policies will lead to even greater economic and job growth for rural America,” said Thom Dammrich, ORR chair and president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “We are grateful to Senator Heinrich for being a leader on outdoor recreation issues and ensuring that investing in rural America remains a national priority.”

The report concludes that outdoor recreation, whether on federal public lands, state parks or private recreation preserves, drives economic activity in rural communities. The industry generated $374 billion in spending in 2016, which represents a nearly 4 percent growth from the previous year. This includes spending in retail sales, accommodation and food services, manufacturing and other sectors. More than 4 million Americans work in the outdoor recreation industry. Rural areas, especially those located near public lands, parks and national monuments, are major players in this industry.

The release of Investing in Rural America comes just months after the outdoor recreation industry was included for the first time in the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) U.S. GDP calculations. The BEA’s report, issued in February 2018, found that the outdoor recreation sector makes up 2 percent of U.S. GDP and accounts for $673 billion in annual gross domestic output. This impact exceeds that of key U.S. industries such as farming and computer manufacturing. In addition, BEA found the outdoor recreation economy grew by 3.8 percent in 2016, exceeding the 2.8 percent growth of the overall U.S. economy during the same period.

ORR is committed to bipartisan collaboration with Congress and the Administration to address deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs on public lands. Investments in modernizing outdoor recreation infrastructure, such as improved campgrounds and marinas, new networks of trails and updated lodging facilities, will facilitate continued growth for the outdoor recreation industry which contributes greatly to the economic health of rural America.

The full Investing in Rural America report issued by the Joint Economic Committee Democrats can be found here.

ASA is a member of ORR. The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable is the nation’s coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations. Please visit www.RecreationRoundtable.org and @ORRoundtable on Twitter for more information on the coalition.

For more information, please contact Vice President of Government Affairs, Scott Gudes.