Continuing the trend kicked off by Utah in 2013, Wisconsin created an office of outdoor recreation on July 3, becoming the 14th state to do so. Virginia followed suit on July 18 when Gov. Ralph Northam announced the establishment of an office in the state, bringing the total count to 15. While the structure and placement of these offices within their respective state governments vary, collectively, they point to the outdoor recreation economy’s increasing significance.
In 2017, 146.1 million Americans, ages 6 and over, participated in outdoor recreation for a total of 10.9 billion outdoor outings, according to the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) 2018 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report. Based on these data, nearly half of the population of the United States — specifically, 49 percent — participated in outdoor recreation that year. OIA also estimates that the industry employs 7.6 million people in a variety of jobs.
Furthermore, a first-of-its-kind analysis conducted by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) showed that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent, or $412 billion, of the country’s GDP in 2016. This sector expanded by 1.7 percent in 2016 — faster than the U.S. economy’s 1.6 percent — and saw more rapid growth with regard to real gross output, employment and compensation than the overall economy.