Author: Patrick Durkin
A newly released government report shows the outdoor-recreation industry generates an annual gross output of $673 billion, or 2 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product, surpassing the impacts of coal, petroleum, computer, electronic and agricultural products.
The report, released Feb. 14, marks the first time the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis formally recognized the outdoor-recreation industry’s impact on the nation’s GDP.
The Archery Trade Association – a member of the 19-member Outdoor Recreation Roundtable that worked with lawmakers in 2016 to monitor and include those industries’ GDP contributions – thanked the Commerce Department for confirming what those industries long assumed.
“The ATA is thrilled to see an appropriate and long-overdue focus on outdoor recreation as one of the American economy’s leading contributors,” said Matt Kormann, ATA CEO/president. “The archery industry has a significant positive impact on conservation and recreation issues nationwide.”
In addition to the ATA, the ORR includes trade organizations representing fishing, firearms, boating, bicycling, motorcycling, recreational vehicles, RV dealers, horseback riding, recreational off-road vehicles, RV parks and campgrounds, snowmobiling and snow-sports, and marinas and marine manufacturers. ORR members also produce eight of the largest recreation-based tradeshows in the United States.
Many of those industry groups – previously called the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, or ORIR – worked with the ATA two years ago to get the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to pass the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act. President Obama signed the bipartisan act into law in December 2016, directing the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to compile and analyze outdoor recreation’s impact on the U.S. economy.
The ORIR and American Recreation Council combined forces Feb. 13 to provide a stronger voice for all outdoor recreation. The ARC advocated for outdoor recreation for over three decades.
Kormann, who represents the ATA on the ORR Board of Directors, said these combined efforts underscore the importance of protecting public lands and access to them. Federal properties cover 30 percent of the nation’s land mass, offering nearly infinite shooting and bowhunting opportunities.
“Our community of more than 21 million bowhunters and archers is eager to see continued investments in access and availability of public lands,” Kormann said. “We’re grateful to be part of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable’s leadership in raising awareness of our collective impact on public health and the environment. This new BEA report ensures decision-makers at all levels of government understand the significance of outdoor recreation as an economic driver in the U.S. economy.”
The report, released Feb. 14, marks the first time the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis formally recognized the outdoor-recreation industry’s impact on the nation’s GDP. Photo Credit: ORR
According to government data, outdoor recreation accounts for over $887 billion in consumer spending and provides over 7.6 million jobs. In addition, outdoor recreation generates $65.3 billion in federal tax revenues, and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenues.
Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching help generate much of that business and revenue. A recent report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on wildlife-related recreation – a study it conducts every five years – found 40 percent of Americans 16 and older participated in hunting, fishing or wildlife-watching activities in 2016. They also spent $156 billion in the process, or 1 percent of the nation’s GDP. That’s the most these groups have spent the past 25 years (when adjusted for inflation) on travel, fees, licenses and equipment for those activities.
In fact, sales of archery and bowhunting equipment in 2017 generated nearly $50 million in revenues through federal excise taxes collected under the Pittman–Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. Those revenues go to the USF&WS, which apportions them to wildlife agencies in all 50 states based on their land mass and hunting-license sales. Of that nearly $50 million in FET, the sale of bows and archery accessories generated nearly $40 million in tax revenues, and arrow shafts generated nearly $10 million.
Dan Forster, the ATA’s vice president and chief conservation officer, is on the ORR’s government-relations committee. He said it’s important for the public to keep learning about outdoor recreation’s myriad impacts on conservation and the nation’s economy. The more people know, the more likely they’ll support efforts to protect, improve and increase access to public lands.
“This report helps us show that industries such as mining, logging and livestock grazing aren’t the only economic forces active on these landscapes,” Forster said. “When agencies study proposals, they must balance economic and environmental considerations. Conservation, recreation and economic development are not mutually exclusive.”
Forster also thinks the economic force of the outdoor-recreation industry, and hunters’ longtime willingness to pay their way for conservation, help position the outdoor community to maximize the value of public lands. And by quantifying outdoor recreation’s economic impacts, the Commerce Department also helps justify efforts to keep Americans “connected” when using public lands.
“Many people, not just millennials, insist on staying connected wherever they go, so why not provide Wi-Fi and broadband internet wherever possible?” Forster asks. “People in our increasingly urban society need more than a picnic table and a parking spot when visiting public lands. They have broad interests. They like to bike, fish, hike, paddle, shoot archery, ride horses, and drive ATVs and powerboats. We must accommodate as many interests as we can.”