States Team Up to Support and Protect the Outdoors and the $900 Billion Industry It Creates

Last week, Colorado and seven other states (Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming)  signed the “Confluence Accords” – a treaty of sorts that commits the signors to various efforts to grow the outdoor recreation economy.

The agreement dictates that the states adopt common principles aimed at:

  • public education and promotion of the benefits of outdoor recreation
  • increased access to recreational activities
  • environmental conservation and stewardship
  • increased economic development collaboration and more

Expansive Benefits. Not only does the outdoors provide obvious health and wellness benefits, the outdoor recreation industry creates almost $900 billion in consumer spending, while employing upwards of seven million people.

With economic benefits greater than the auto industry and the pharmaceutical industry combined, and intangible benefits that go to the “very character and quality of life we should all enjoy”, expect to see the outdoor recreation industry in the news with more frequency in the days and months to come.

State and Federal Advocacy. Like many industries, the outdoor industry is closely tied to what happens in federal and state legislatures. This agreement, signed by eight states, is the latest in a series of steps intended to raise the profile, and flex the political muscle, of the outdoor recreation industry.

The industry’s trade association, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), is taking positions on land use, climate change, and tariff and tax issues at both federal and state levels. In Congress, OIA is advocating for preservation of public lands, often by opposing methane flaring on federal lands, oil and gas development in certain sensitive areas, and Bureau of Land Management leases. The organization recently released its first congressional scorecard, available here.

After 20 years of hosting the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah, Outdoor Industry Association’s longtime partner, Emerald Expositions, relocated the show to Colorado this year to focus more centrally on environmental and business issues. A good move for Colorado since the Outdoor Retailer show is expected: to generate $28 Billion in annual consumer spending, create 229,000 direct Colorado jobs, produce $9.7 Billion in Colorado wages and salaries, and generate $2 Billion in state and local tax revenue annually.