This week, as part of the National Governors Association conference in Salt Lake City, Utah played host to a press conference organized by NGA Solutions where the National Outdoor Recreation Learning Network was announced.

The network will help governors and their staffs explore strategies to leverage natural, cultural and historical resources and help promote economic, social and environmental benefits.

Six governors participated in the network announcement and spoke in the order in which their states launched an outdoor recreation initiative.

Utah

Gov. Gary Herbert noted that Utah lead the way, creating the country’s first Office of Outdoor Recreation. He also credited the promotion of outdoor recreation in Utah with helping fuel double-digit growth in tourism, and he noted the state has some 38 million acres of public land that provide unrivaled access to the outdoors with many places to enjoy and experience iconic western landscapes.

Gov. Herbert also highlighted the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant funding of 155 projects statewide leveraging over $78 million and the new Every Kid Outdoors initiative that encourages our youth to get out and recreate.

Utah’s Recreation Economy

  • $12.3 billion in consumer spending
  • $3.9 billion in wages and salaries
  • 110,000 outdoor recreation jobs
  • $737 million in state and local tax revenue

Montana

Gov. Steve Bullock reported that outdoor recreation is the second-largest industry in Montana. He also commented on the importance of the state’s quality of life and suggested it provides an economic development advantage over other locations. Finally, he noted that outdoor recreation is just as important to the entire country as it is to the people in Montana — that it’s an essential part of America’s way of life.

Montana’s Recreation Economy

  • $7.1 billion in consumer spending
  • $2.2 billion in wages and salaries
  • 71,000 outdoor recreation jobs
  • $286 million in state and local tax revenue

Vermont

Gov. Phil Scott shared a tradition in Vermont: on the first Saturday in May, communities gather in what they call “Green Up Day” to remove litter from Vermont’s roadsides and public places. He also shared a story of how Vermont companies use advertising in mountain biking magazines to bring engineers — in jobs that are difficult to fill in a competitive industry — to the state. Finally, he shared his conviction that outdoor recreation is important to Vermont’s and America’s economy and overall health.

Vermont’s Recreation Economy

  • $5.5 billion in consumer spending
  • $1.5 billion in wages and salaries
  • 51,000 outdoor recreation jobs
  • $505 million in state and local tax revenue

Oregon

Gov. Kate Brown mentioned Oregon’s state motto, “She Flies With Her Own Wings,” which she said reflected Oregon’s tradition of independence and innovation, and the pioneer spirit of those who enjoy the great outdoors. She said it’s of utmost importance that everyone can access and enjoy the outdoors, stressing the need to provide access to the outdoors to all socioeconomic families and individuals. In that vein, she commented that outdoor recreation helps bridge the urban and rural divide. Gov. Brown also noted the 363 miles of publicly available coastline in Oregon, explaining that Oregon is unique in preserving its coastline for public access.

Oregon’s Recreation Economy

  • $16.4 billion in consumer spending
  • $5.1 billion in wages and salaries
  • 172,000 outdoor recreation jobs
  • $749 million in state and local tax revenue

Maine

Gov. Janet Mills, in a spirit of friendly competition, mentioned the 3,500 miles of beautiful Maine coastline that her state’s residents and visitors enjoy. She commented that outdoor recreation is an essential part of Maine’s cultural heritage and shared a story of a fishing fly that was recently created in honor of her serving as Maine’s 75th governor.

Maine’s Recreation Economy

  • $8.2 billion in consumer spending
  • $2.2 billion in wages and salaries
  • 76,000 outdoor recreation jobs
  • $548 million in state and local tax revenue

Nevada

Gov. Steve Sisolak acknowledged that Nevada is the newest state to create a division of outdoor recreation, building on what he called “the best fishing and hunting in America.” He noted that outdoor recreation means business; it’s the third-largest employer in Nevada, bringing jobs, economic resources and investment. Gov. Sisolak also promoted the benefits of outdoor time for health.

Nevada’s Recreation Economy

  • $12.6 billion in consumer spending
  • $4 billion in wages and salaries
  • 87,000 outdoor recreation jobs
  • $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenue
six governors launch National Outdoor Recreation Learning Network with NGA Solutions
Governors Phil Scott, Kate Brown, Gary Herbert, Steve Bullock, Steve Sisolak and Janet Mills

After the governors spoke, representatives from REI, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and Outdoor Industry Association — all sponsors of the new National Outdoor Recreation Learning Network — spoke about the benefits of outdoor recreation. They noted that 2.2 percent of the U.S. GDP in 2016 came from outdoor recreation, making it one of the nation’s most significant economic engines.

Outdoor recreation supports healthy communities and economies. Marc Berejka, the director of community and government affairs for REI Co-op, said: “A life outdoors is a life well-lived,” and noted that the great outdoors is the best preventative medicine.

In all, fifteen states have now established offices or task forces to study the growing outdoor recreation economy, promote outdoor opportunities and improve access to the outdoors for residents and visitors alike.

The Outdoor Industry Association tracks the industry’s economic impact. Visit the organization’s advocacy webpage to view economic impact in the U.S. and by state.

The National Governors Association also launched a website for the new National Outdoor Recreation Learning Network. Visit nga.org/outdoors for more information.