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06/22/2012

Playing Outside Is Serious Business

After less than two weeks in DC, I already feel like I’ve learned a LOT. For example,
yesterday, I learned what a congressional briefing is. It’s a lot like a lecture presented by a
visiting professor or expert at school, except you have to wear a suit to get in and there are
lots of important people in the audience. But the idea is the same – a couple of people present
information, often some new findings, about a topic they think is important and want you
to think is important, too. So yesterday, I attended a briefing entitled, “Take It Outside for
American Jobs and a Strong Economy.” Representatives from the outdoor recreation industry,
like the CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports, Will Manzer, teamed up with Senator Mark Udall from
Colorado and Congressman Charlie Bass (my Representative from New Hampshire’s always
lovely 2nd district!) to present a new report about the outdoor recreation economy. What they
found was actually pretty impressive: outdoor recreation results in 6.1 million American jobs,
and $646 billion in direct consumer spending annually. That’s more money than we spend each
year on all of our utility bills and pharmaceuticals combined!

What I thought was most interesting, though, is that Americans have prioritized
their outdoor recreation despite the tough economic times we’ve seen in recent years.
Even though many economic sectors have flatlined or even shrunk due to the recession, the
outdoor recreation economy grew about 5%, on average, every year from 2005 to 2011.
Getting outdoors is important because it improves quality of life, and millions of Americans are
demonstrating that with their wallets.

What’s significant about this report, and the reason why I think it’s pretty exciting, is
what it shows us about the direct, important economic benefits of outdoor recreation. We
already know that getting outside is good for your health, good for your community, and it’s
pretty obvious (at least to me) that it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Another thing I’ve learned in
DC, though, is that sometimes those sorts of benefits aren’t enough to convince people that
something is worth spending money on. What you need is evidence that it’s good for the
economy – and this is that evidence! Now, we know that outdoor recreation is a significant
contributor to our economy, employing more Americans than the entire finance and insurance
industry. With this report, then, it’s easy to show that protecting our lands, giving us places to
play, and encouraging Americans to get outside are all actions that support the US economy in
a HUGE way. As if you needed another reason to go play outside today!

For more information on the findings, check out the report!

--by Amanda Wheelock, Mission Outdoors Summer Intern

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