Good News: Playing Outside is Incredibly Profitable

Written by Jessica Goad

The outdoor recreation economy is big business in America. Data released today by the Outdoor Industry Association show the fiscal impacts of recreation in all 50 states, from consumer spending to direct jobs to wages and salaries. The top five states for consumer spending on outdoor recreation are: California ($85.4 billion), Florida ($38.3 billion), New York ($33.8 billion), Texas ($28.7 billion), and Georgia ($23.3 billion).

Additionally, every state in the union benefits from between 28,000 direct jobs (North Dakota) to 732,000 direct jobs (California) in the industry.

In total, outdoor recreation provides $646 billion in economic impacts and 6.1 million direct jobs every year (three times that of the oil and gas industry). These data incorporate the various sectors the outdoor recreation industry relies on, including manufacturing, retail and sales, transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and services near outdoor recreation sites.

A number of western state legislatures are attempting to “reclaim” federal public lands in order to exploit their resources more easily. But Frank Hugelmeyer, CEO of the Outdoor Industry Association, noted that for the industry’s economic influence to increase, political leaders must balance the use of public lands for energy while implementing policies that protect them:

Outdoor recreation is good for the American economy and our future. When we invest in the nation’s network of public lands and waters, we are protecting and enhancing outdoor experiences for the benefit of the thousands of businesses, communities and families whose livelihoods depends on the outdoor recreation economy.

More than 140 million Americans participate in some sort of outdoor activity every year. While the value of such recreation has long been suspected, only in the last several years has it actually been quantified. As Greg Hanscom writes in Grist:

After decades of being blown off as dirty hippie backpacker types, [environmentalists]  can finally declare, with a straight face and data to back them up, that protecting the public lands from oil and gas drilling and other ecological insults is not just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business.

The release of today’s data is also notable because just last week, President Obama nominated Sally Jewell, CEO of outdoor retailer REI, to be his new Secretary of the Interior. Jewell has been an impassioned advocate for the value of this industry, and many expect her to continue to make the business case for conservation when she takes the reins of the Interior Department.

Making strides on permanently protecting public lands will be an important priority for both Congress and the administration over the next few years, especially in the midst of our current energy boom. The Center for American Progress recently released data showing the Obama administration has leased 2.5 more acres to oil and gas companies than it has permanently protected.

The economic case for putting energy and conservation on equal ground has never been clearer, as data like those released today show.

This post was originally published by ClimateProgress.


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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

We have certainly spent plenty on outdoor stuff this year, rubber mulch, seed, stain for the swingset and deck, fixing the grill, outdoor furniture. But it's all been worth it

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago

Especially on the IMMATERIAL side!!!

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you ClimateProgress, for Sharing this!

Magda V.
Past Member 4 years ago


Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago


Jilly D.
Gilly D4 years ago

Chrysta you are so right, I hardly ever see any kids in our area outside playing and when I do see them they are on an iPad or DS etc... Sad. Thankfully my parents loved the great outdoors so I did too.

Doug G.
Doug G4 years ago

As long as politicians take bribes from those entites that prosper from environmental degradation, a significant committment from the political is doubtful.

Michael Abdi
Michael Abdi4 years ago


Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A4 years ago

Eco tourism is also on the rise which is good to see. It will help educate a lot of people to what needs to be done to help save our enviroment. like my friend says.....get them off the concrete and they will see the beauty for themselves.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams4 years ago

Jobs for poor to middle class persons who really need the money are much more important than corporate profits for the filthy rich to get even richer from.