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Green Jobs in the Great Outdoors

Originally published on GoodJobsGreenJobs.org

Think fast — which industry provides more jobs for America: the outdoor recreation economy or the oil and gas sector? Answer: the outdoor recreation economy, and by a huge margin.

An oft-overlooked economic driver, protecting and connecting people with the great outdoors supports 6.1 million jobs right here in America,according to the Outdoor Industry Association. In fact, in 2011 our National Parks alone generated $30.1 billion in economic activity, contributing 252,000 jobs to the American workforce. Outdoor recreation bankrolls more jobs than a host of economic behemoths like oil and gas (2.1 million jobs), information (2.5 million jobs), transportation and warehousing (4.3 million jobs) and construction (5.5 million jobs). Supporting these outdoor recreation jobs (not to mention the additional $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue that they generate) is consumer spending to the tune of $646 billion each year.

Unfortunately, we may not be adequately preparing the next generation of job seekers to participate in the outdoor economy, which has seen steady five percent growth since 2005. Today’s children are spending less time exploring and enjoying the great outdoors than their parents did just a generation ago. Young people are using most of their free time on increasingly sedentary and indoor activities. For instance, youth spend more than seven hours a day on electronic media. And it’s not their fault, they have nowhere to go. One in five kids cannot even access close-to-home outdoor spaces because they do not have safe parks or playgrounds nearby.

We need to do more to ensure that we are teaching relevant skills to today’s young people so that they may contribute to the conservation and recreation economy, where they can earn a living in protecting and connecting people with America’s great outdoors. Our work starts by making sure all people, beginning with little kids, have every opportunity to explore and enjoy the natural world where they can develop an appreciation for the great outdoors. Then we need to make sure that young people have the appropriate skill sets to protect and restore our public lands — the places on which a robust outdoor recreation economy depends.

The “Green Jobs in the Great Outdoors” workshop at the Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference will bring together experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities for ensuring we have a workforce well-equipped to take on green careers in recreation and conservation. For example, you’ll hear about Sierra Club’s Outdoors program which is both connecting people (young and old) with the great outdoors and training the next generation of outdoor leaders. You’ll hear about conservation and restoration skills training programs provided by the Student Conservation Association and the various programs and initiatives housed with our federal land management agencies to prepare current and future generations for careers protecting and connecting America with the natural world.

This year’s conference theme is Let’s Get to Work: Climate Change, Infrastructure and Innovation. Protecting our public lands for the public benefit allows us to grow an economy that greens our planet and our pockets. Outdoor recreation supports three times more American jobs than does the oil and gas industry, so let’s grow our economy by keeping the oil and gas in the ground and protecting the lands on which the outdoor recreation economy and 6.1 million Americans’ jobs depend.


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