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Policy & Government

OIA report: Outdoor recreation's impact by congressional district

OIA breaks down $887 billion outdoor industry by 435 congressional districts.

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The Outdoor Industry Association didn’t show up empty-handed to lobby in Washington D.C. this week.

Staff brought with them Outdoor Recreation Economy reports for all 435 congressional districts—the first sets of data of their kind that show the power of a vast multi-billion dollar economic engine in local communities and across the nation.

The data allows policymakers to get a handle on district-specific consumer interests and spending. It is hyper-localized, close-to-home info that will allow members of Congress to understand the industry’s impact and better represent their constituents.

And in each district, outdoor recreation generates numbers worth leveraging.

“One-hundred and forty-five million Americans, from all walks of life, participate in outdoor recreation every year, and 7.6 million Americans have good-paying jobs that rely on the outdoor recreation economy,” said Amy Roberts, OIA executive director. “These reports show that all districts have something to gain when our federal and local policymakers support our public lands and waters and invest in outdoor recreation.”

Amy Roberts at Cap Summit
Amy Roberts, executive director of OIA, presents the Outdoor Recreation Economy impact reports at a breakfast on Tuesday at Capitol Summit.Jennifer Pringle, OIA

Roberts continues, “Outdoor recreation provides much-needed diversity to local economies, but also brings this country together. Across our country we have seen members of Congress, governors, state legislators, mayors and other policymakers understand the value of outdoor recreation for their local economies and communities. It is critical that we continue to invest in and support this growing and powerful recreation economy so that we can all continue to thrive outside.”

All reports—from rural towns to densely populated cities—can be viewed here.

During Capitol Summit, OIA is using the data to help legislators better understand the importance of the outdoor recreation economy in their districts and among their constituents. They also want to see people use the numbers to engage with elected officials at the local level. OIA, in part, is urging policymakers to:

  • Adequately fund state and local parks and trails to make them attractive and accessible to families and friends seeking to get outside.
  • Develop and plan urban areas in a way that allows all citizens to get outside and recreate within 30 minutes of their homes.
  • Support policies that encourage outdoor entrepreneurs and innovators to start businesses.

Congressman Jared Polis, D-Colorado, spoke before a crowd at the OIA’s breakfast on Tuesday during the first day of Capitol Summit. He said he uses the numbers to help his fellow congressmen to connect the dots and recognize how important the outdoor industry is in each of their states.

“The outdoor industry plays a role in bridging what is far too often a big gap between business and the environment,” Polis said, as quoted by OIA on Twitter.

Marc Berejka, the REI’s director of community and government affairs, said in the press release that at the co-op, he and his staff believe that a life outdoors is a live well lived.

“Time adventuring in nature brings out the best in us—individually, when we’re with friends and family, regardless of background,” Berejka said. “It’s also increasingly understood that when Americans spend time outdoors, they help drive the economy. Today’s latest economic impact studies from Outdoor Industry Association show that public investment in recreation opportunities generates large returns, making our local communities stronger and healthier, both urban and rural. Studies like these make it clear why outdoor recreation is a must-have for all of us.”

One year ago, OIA released the third version of the Outdoor Recreation Economy report, which revealed that the outdoor recreation economy generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually, sustains 7.6 million American jobs, and annually brings in $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

OIA also released state-level Outdoor Recreation Economy reports featuring economic data for all 50 states across the United States, offering a deeper look into a thriving sector that’s helping to create healthier economies and healthier communities.