Study: Outdoor recreation industry generates billions for Colorado

Friday, June 30, 2017 5:53 PM
River rafters and a fisherman in a canoe enjoy the warm weather and the Dolores River on Tuesday afternoon.
Hikers make their way along Elbert Creek Trail in 2015. Information released Tuesday by the Outdoor Industry Association shows Colorado consumers spend $28 billion annually on outdoor recreation.

DENVER – Colorado consumers spend $28 billion annually on outdoor recreation, according to a sneak peek released Tuesday of an economic impact report by the Outdoor Industry Association.

In return, the outdoor recreation industry contributes $2 billion in tax revenue, $9.7 billion in wages and creates an estimated 229,000 jobs in Colorado.

Amy Roberts, executive director of the association, said the numbers aren’t particularly surprising based on Colorado’s continued economic growth and history of public lands support from lawmakers through such programs as Great Outdoors Colorado.

“It really demonstrated the impact that forward thinking policies have had,” Roberts said.

She added that the report shows lawmakers that continued support of Colorado’s public lands has benefits beyond the “healthy, fun lifestyle,” that Coloradans enjoy.

“We want to ensure that elected officials understand that this economy is really strong, that it’s an economy that creates jobs across the state, in both urban and rural areas, and that making decisions that support the growth of the outdoor recreation economy is going to be a job creator and an economic stimulus,” she said.

The popularity of the “healthy, fun lifestyle” is represented by the 71 percent of Coloradans who report participating in some form of outdoor recreation each year, which is something that leaders in the industry have picked up on.

“OIA’s Outdoor Recreation Economy report reflects what Smartwool and many in our industry have known all along – it makes dollars and ‘sense’ to locate your business where your product is used,” Travis Campbell, president of Smartwool said in a statement.

Individual reports for all 50 states will be released next month, but Tuesday’s sneak peek included annual numbers on the national impact of outdoor recreation: $887 billion in consumer spending, 7.6 million jobs and a combined $124.5 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue.

The timing of the report boosts protectors of America’s public lands, which the industry is heavily reliant on, as it highlights the economic value of protected parcels.

It comes amid ongoing debate on public lands and the review of National Monuments by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

Roberts encouraged Coloradans to keep appraised of what is happening to their public lands, reach out to their lawmakers and make their voices heard through voting.

“Learn the numbers, learn the issues and make sure you become an informed voter,” she said.