Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog New Study: Investments in Public Lands Brings Jobs, Economic Benefits

New Study: Investments in Public Lands Brings Jobs, Economic Benefits

Posted by Loren D at Jun 28, 2021 06:00 PM |

With hiking up 16% last year, investments in public lands are critical to sustaining the growing benefits to local and national economies from recreation.

by Cassidy Giampetro

Across the United States, the outdoor recreation industry is driving large and small economies and introducing people to new hobbies, industries and places. That’s particularly true in Washington, where so many public lands and landscapes invite diverse outdoor activities, including hiking.

The State Outdoor Business Alliance Network recently published a report on the power of our nation’s outdoor recreation economy. The results: Jobs and other economic benefits of a recreation economy — and the trails and public lands that it relies on — are playing an increasingly important role. The study also found that hiking was up 16 percent nationwide in 2020. 

view from tent at Yellow Aster Butte by Derrick PetersFrom the trailhead to tent views, gear, gas and groceries; hiking and camping on Washington's trails creates jobs and fuels local businesses. Photo by Derrick Peters

Outdoor recreation critical for local, state and national economies

Almost 5.2 million people nationwide work in this industry — about the same amount employed by hospitals and double that employed by farming. In 2019, the value-add contribution of the outdoor recreation industry was $459.8 billion, representing 2.1% of GDP of the U.S. economy! This is more than double the GDP contributions of oil and gas development, motor vehicle manufacturing, and the motion picture industries. 

The outdoor industry serves a worthwhile purpose in the nation’s larger economy, but the report looks beyond these impressive numbers to detail just how influential this industry is to local economies, too.

Outdoor recreation is a critical asset for sustainable growth in states, cities, and towns. Access to the outdoors enhances a quality of life that attracts skilled workers and people on all walks of life. Many people visit places with plentiful outdoor recreation as tourists, later to return as residents. This expands an area’s tax base and builds opportunities for new business. Pathways to outdoor recreation also create healthier, happier communities overall.

Study spotlights how trails support jobs, businesses in the Methow

Trails are an important piece of outdoor recreation. Investments in trails directly supports business, jobs, and local governments. In Methow Valley, Washington, the summer and winter trail system results in $6 for local worker’s salaries for every $1 spent to develop and operate trails.

The outdoor recreation industry continues to flourish, seeing participation increase threefold during the pandemic. But to support growth and continue the significant economic impact of this sector, investments need to be made. 

The report calls for infrastructure, development, and funding for parks, trails, and education to maintain healthy landscapes. 

The strength of the outdoor recreation economy is made up of the many contributions each and every person has when navigating the outdoors — and when using your voice to speak up for trails across the state.

We know that in order to grow our state’s recreation opportunities, we need the help of hikers like you to share your support for increased recreation funding. Join WTA's Trail Action Network to keep you abreast of places where your voice can be heard on these issues.