John Spezia: Public lands key for U.S. outdoor recreation industry
On Feb. 14, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report detailing the contribution of the outdoor recreation industry to the overall U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP. BEA found that the outdoor recreation industry accounted for 2 percent of the GDP in 2016 and is growing faster than the overall U.S. economy at a rate of 3.8 percent compared to 2.8 percent.
The BEA report valued the outdoor recreation economy at $373.7 billion, which is 2 percent of the overall economy. This figure is comparable to other industries like construction (4.3 percent); legal services (1.3 percent); agriculture, including farming, forestry, and fishing (1 percent); and, most significantly, mining, oil and gas extraction (1.4 percent), according to the BEA report.
Understanding the importance of this 2-percent contribution is particularly timely as the Trump Administration and Secretary of the Interior Zinke are moving to expand oil and gas development on public lands rather than protecting those lands upon which the faster growing outdoor recreation industry depends. With these official numbers showing the extent to which the outdoor industry contributes to the GDP, a focus on balanced management of public lands to support the continued growth of this industry should be the policy, rather than degrading them with oil and gas development.
This is of special importance as the proposals to develop resources on public lands are no longer subjected to climate change impact criteria under the new public land management policy. And, as we all know here in Steamboat Springs, we are experiencing fewer ski days, lower snowpack and less water flowing in the Yampa River. Water is vital to our snow-making capacity, our summer tourist economy, our wildlife, our verdant natural environment and our agricultural community.
Our public lands are key for the outdoor recreation industry that supports our mountain communities. Official recognition of the outdoor industry’s economic importance should help give our mountain communities a greater voice when advocating for public lands protections and climate change policies.
This latter point is important because, when we are critical of actions that degrade our public lands and weaken our recreational economy, we must also be part of the climate solution through energy efficiency and sustainable renewable energy goals.
There are many actions we can take to protect the Yampa Valley. Thanks to the Steamboat Springs City Council for recently voting to join the Compact of Colorado Communities and committing to climate action.
Encourage them to continue to protect our public lands and to make a commitment to measure and reduce carbon emissions. Ask the Routt County commissioners to do the same. Let your Congressional representatives know that oil and gas development on our public lands is not in the best interest of our mountain economy.
Contacts: City of Steamboat Springs, steamboatsprings.net/FormCenter/City-Council-19/City-Council-Contact-Form-103; Routt County commissioners, 970- 879-0108; Rep. Scott Tipton, 202-225-4761; Sen. Cory Gardner, 970-245-8553; and Sen. Michael Bennet, 202-224-5852.
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