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Outdoor rec provides economic boost

February 14, 2018
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

A preliminary report from the federal government shows that outdoor recreation - in all its forms - has a significant impact on the national economy, and is growing much faster than the economy as a whole.

According to the initial data, outdoor recreation is a more than $373 billion dollar industry, accounting for a full two percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP). The industry also grew at a faster rate last year.

"The outdoor recreation economy grew 3.8 percent in 2016, compared to growth of 2.8 percent in the overall economy," a press release from the BEA said.

Article Photos

Skis, boots and accessories line the walls of High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid. A recent federal report found that outdoor recreation contributes hundreds of billions to the economy and is growing faster than the overall gross domestic product.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

The report was developed so businesses have a better idea of what industries are growing, and therefore, are good investments.

"Businesses need the right data to help them hire, invest and grow," U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the release. "The historical lack of detailed federal data regarding outdoor recreational activities has handicapped both the private and public sectors.

"The public will no doubt be surprised at the economic importance of this industry as we release prototype statistics measuring the impact of activities like boating, fishing, RVing, hunting, camping, hiking, and more. This release is a milestone for business executives, small-business owners, entrepreneurs, and government officials, who will rely on these detailed data to plan, grow, and gain new insights into this dynamic part of the U.S. Economy."

The report, which is part of what is called a satellite (OSRA) account, is the latest in a series that is intended to provide more detailed economic analysis. Other sectors getting a closer look include tourism, travel and arts.

"For example, the supply-use tables show the production of all apparel, whereas the OSRA shows the production of apparel used specifically for outdoor recreation activities, such as wet suits and hiking boots," the BEA explained.

Outdoor activity is split into two categories: core and supporting.

"Core activities include the pro and purchase of goods and services used directly for outdoor recreation ... (such as the) purchase of gear, equipment, fuel, concessions, maintenance, repair and fees," the BEA says. "Supporting activities are defined as goods and services that support access to outdoor recreation activities ... (including) trip expenses, construction and government expenditures."

The BEA also had to combine or split some activities having significant overlap.

"For example, camping and hiking were combined into a single category to avoid double counting the many items that can be used for both activities."

The report found that motorized vehicles had the biggest impact, the sale of which contributed nearly $60 billion to the economy. Boating and fishing had the second biggest impact, being responsible for just shy of $40 billion, while hunting, shooting and trapping combined for around $15 billion. Horse-related expenditures accounted for more than $10 billion, as did "other conventional outdoor recreation activities" such as hiking and camping.

Within that "other" category, "multi-use apparel and accessories, which include backpacks, bug spray and other general-purpose gear ... grew 7.2 percent in 2016."

Last year was not the first that saw outdoor recreation outpace the economy. The industry saw growth of 4.5 percent in 2013, and nearly 6 percent in 2015, beating the economy as a whole that year by nearly 2 percent.

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), which does its own analysis of outdoor recreation's economic impact, found the majority of New Yorkers engage in the outdoors, finding that 52 percent of New York residents play outside.

OIA issued a state-wide report that found outdoor recreation is directly responsible for 313,000 jobs in the state, and that it generates nearly $42 billion in consumer spending each year.

OIA also found that wildlife watching and snow sports combined created more economic activity than state's film industry, which generated $6.5 billion annually, compared to $6.7 billion for snow sports and wildlife viewing.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, put out its preliminary findings in response to a 2016 law that was signed by former President Barrack Obama.

"The Secretary of Commerce shall enter into a joint memorandum with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to conduct, acting through the Director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an assessment and analysis of the outdoor recreation economy of the United States and the effects attributable to such economy on the overall economy of the United States," the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016 reads.

To read the report and how to comment on the findings, go to



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