The Significance of Mountain West’s Outdoor Recreation Economy Emphasized by Analysis

The outdoor recreation sector is a significant contributor to the US economy, driving about $454 billion to the GDP based on data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. A recent report by Headwaters Economics, a non-partisan research group, further analyzed the federal data, indicating that this impact is particularly prominent in some regions of the West. Outdoor recreation represents almost 2% of the US economy and employs around 4.5 million people. It contributes more than double the amount generated by auto manufacturing.

Several western states experienced a considerable impact on their economy due to outdoor recreation. Montana and Wyoming had 4.4% and 3.6% of their economy, respectively, from outdoor recreation. Idaho, Utah, and Colorado also scored higher than the national average. Unfortunately, like most sectors of the economy, the outbreak of the pandemic has adversely affected outdoor recreation.

Nevertheless, according to Headwaters economist Megan Lawson, the outdoor recreation economy started to recover due to its significant contribution to the economy. The report showed that the financial impact of the sector would increase by over 20% from 2020 to 2021, and employment would grow by approximately 13%. This goes to show that the outdoor recreation industry is tremendous and continues to grow in importance.

Lawson further added that the outdoor recreation economy is vital because it supports different sectors, underpinning the economy’s various parts. She also mentions that the interest in outdoor activities has increased, spurred by cabin fever resulting from the pandemic. This surge in interest does not seem to be slowing down, and people continue to rediscover the mental and physical benefits of outdoor recreation.

This article was initially published by Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio KUNR in Nevada, Rocky Mountain West O’Connor Center in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, and KUNM in New Mexico, supported by affiliates throughout the region. The Mountain West News Bureau receives partial funding from the Public Broadcasting Corporation. The copyright belongs to Boise State Public Radio News. For details, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

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