Mr. President: Protect Our Outdoors and the $646 Billion Recreation Economy
By Scott Braden, CMC Conservation Director
With the Presidential debates gearing up for Denver tomorrow, we are eager to hear about President Obama’s plans for his conservation legacy for America. This week’s Denver visit comes on the heels of President Obama’s September 13th speech to voters in this swing state, just four blocks away from the American Alpine Club’s Headquarters.
Last month, the AAC joined with our friends at Colorado Mountain Club to welcome the president to our hometown and to highlight the need to protect our public lands and grow the outdoor recreation economy that these lands support. We recruited a contingent of enthusiastic young climbers to hold a banner in front of the American Mountaineering Center and talk to people on their way to the President’s speech at Lion’s Park.
A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association found that the US outdoor recreation economy creates over 6.1 million direct American jobs and generates a staggering $646 billion in direct consumer spending each year. This is an economic sector that is nearly twice as large as the pharmaceuticals industry ($331 billion). About 15% of this spending is on gear, vehicles and accessories, the rest is spent on the trips and travel—which supports jobs that can’t be exported.
This outdoor economy translates to jobs in America. Underlying this steadily growing sector is our public lands where most of the recreation occurs. To nurture and protect these lands is to, by extension, to ensure the health of our economy. That’s why we took to the street to remind President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that they have the power to grow our economy in Colorado and the nation by protecting more public land. They have the authority to designate national monuments at places like Browns Canyon, champion the full funding of important programs like the Land & Water Conservation Fund, and provide leadership on other important land management decisions that directly impact our landscape. (Thank you Mr. President for recently designating Chimney Rock as the country’s newest National Monument!)
We are hoping to amplify the message that in Colorado and around the country, protecting our public lands equates to more jobs and growth of our outdoor recreation economy. Coloradans believe this—a Colorado College “State of the Rockies” study recently found that 78% say we can protect land and water and have a strong economy at the same time. So when Mr. Obama comes to Colorado looking to sway voters, he would do well to remember to promote our outdoor recreation economy.
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