Doug Tumminello: Impact of the outdoor economy

As I was on my bike this morning, struggling up Willow Creek Pass north of Clark, I couldn’t help but be struck by the extraordinary beauty of the Elk River Valley and the ranches that straddle the river.

We live in a remarkable area – a region that is home, worksite and playground for ranchers, hunters, anglers, cyclists, skiers and so many other “outdoorists” whose interests are closely aligned in maintaining those recreational opportunities. It’s common knowledge that the outdoor community not only appreciates the beauty of our open spaces but also contributes mightily to its economic health.

With the bipartisan passage in late 2016 of the federal Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act, the outdoor industry’s contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product is now being officially measured for the first time. The Departments of Commerce, Agriculture and the Interior are now tasked with conducting a comprehensive assessment and analysis of the outdoor recreation economy and its overall effects on the U.S. economy. The numbers are staggering.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation now generates $887 billion in annual consumer spending. This amount is almost equivalent to the total spending on motor vehicles and parts and pharmaceuticals combined and is only slightly less than spending on financial services and insurance.

In Colorado alone, outdoor recreation generates $28 billion in consumer spending annually and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is responsible for 229,000 direct jobs, generating $9.7 billion in wages and salaries and $2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

It’s of course no surprise that outdoor recreation has a significant impact in Routt County, indeed throughout the entire 3rd Congressional District. Residents of the district spend almost $2.2 billion on outdoor recreation each year and the district is home to at least 240 outdoor companies.

In short, outdoor recreation plays a vital role in creating a healthy local economy in addition to a healthy community. Local economist Scott Ford has previously estimated that in the immediate Steamboat Springs area, recreation generates over $134 million in local spending, creates close to $16 million in household income and contributes over $5 million in taxes to the city’s coffers.

Outdoor recreation is of course fun, which is why we raft — or tube — the rivers, hunt in the Zirkels and, in my case, struggle ever so slowly up Willow Creek Pass. But it’s more than just fun – it’s a vital part of our local economy and its importance continues to grow.

As our community sets policy and implements that policy through the budget process, I hope we are able to keep these points in mind.

Doug Tumminello

Steamboat Springs

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