WASHINGTON – The Senate has unanimously approved a measure aimed at better understanding the impact of the outdoor recreation industry on the nation’s economy.
The Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016 would enable policymakers to more accurately explore the outdoor recreation market’s employment, consumer spending, and tourism contributions as part of the economy’s bigger picture.
“Outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of Southwest Colorado’s economy, and the industry continues to attract visitors to Durango, Cortez and all corners of our state,” said Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who introduced the bill last year together with New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Precise data about the outdoor recreation industry’s size and impact is hard to come by despite its presence as a multi-billion dollar industry. There are some state and local statistics on consumer spending by economic sector – a monthly analysis conducted by Fort Lewis College measures overall tourism in La Plata County – and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a “first-of-its-kind” study on the economics of outdoor recreation in April.
This act, however, would break new ground by directing the secretary of commerce to coordinate with the departments of Agriculture and the Interior on submitting regular assessments to Congress. These analyses stand to benefit the industry as a whole, according to Gardner.
“As the outdoor recreation industry evolves, it’s important that policymakers and business leaders know its true economic impact on communities like Durango, Cortez and others,” Gardner said. “That’s exactly what this bill aims to do, and I’m hopeful it will empower decision makers with the information they need to ensure the growth of this sector and an increase in jobs.”
Passed with bipartisan support, the bill heads to President Barack Obama’s desk. Industry leaders are optimistic:
“This is a big step forward, said Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, the industry’s largest trade association, adding the bill ensures federal officials better realize “the economic importance of our industry and uses that data to inform the decisions that affect our businesses and the 142 million Americans who recreate outside each year.”
Alejandro Alvarez, a recent graduate of American University, is an intern for The Durango Herald. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @aletweetsnews.