Outdoor Recreation's Importance Continues to Grow Nationally and in Idaho

The celebration of this year's National Public Lands Day was remarkable!

On September 28, 2019, the 26th Annual National Public Lands Day brought over 156,000 volunteers — up nearly 30 percent from last year — to participate in volunteer activities at more than 2,000 public lands sites. According to estimates by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), this translated to almost $16 Million in services to public lands!

These services not only help promote environmental stewardship, through reducing invasive plant impacts and increasing habitat for threatened native wildlife, but also help create the foundation for a dynamic outdoor recreation economy that is finally being recognized for playing an important role in our nation's economic growth.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation,” more than 101.6 million Americans, or 40% of the U.S. population age 16 and older, pursued wildlife-related recreation, contributing an estimated $156.3 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016.

Furthermore, updated statistics from the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA)released on September 20, 2019 by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) show that the total outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2 percent ($412 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2017, and even higher for Idaho, accounting for approximately 3 percent of state GDP.

Real GDP for the outdoor recreation economy grew by 3.9 percent in 2017, faster than the 2.4 percent growth of the overall U.S. economy. Overall, real gross output, compensation, and employment all grew faster in outdoor recreation than for the economy as a whole.

People are passionate about the outdoors and the adventures they have in wild places. Idaho's outdoors and public lands are worth preserving to not only support growing interest in outdoor recreation activities, but also the substantial associated economic benefits. With more roadless wilderness than any state in the nation outside of Alaska, over 107,000 miles of river, and 34.5 million acres of public lands, Idaho is well positioned to capitalize and benefit from the growth in the outdoor recreation sector.

To sustain the economic, health and quality of life benefits our outdoor recreation economy drives, we must manage and value our outdoors as treasured assets. Help us grow the base of Idaho businesses and community partners willing to advocate for and work together to improve the health and the resilience of Idaho’s outdoors and public lands so they are available for future generations.

If you know a business that supports Idaho's outdoors and public lands let us know, or reach out to them and invite them to become a member. Together, we are stronger and better positioned to support Idaho's outdoors!

Heather Parkinson Dermott
sustaining fishable, swimmable, drinkable waterways

For Idahoans, our quality of life goes hand in hand with the quality of our water.

Photo Courtesy of: Idaho Business for the Outdoors

Photo Courtesy of: Idaho Business for the Outdoors

Fishable, swimmable, drinkable waterways is a vision we have sought as a nation ever since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1979 (CWA). Today, our communities continue to work towards reaching the goals of the CWA to sustain healthy fisheries, recreation, public health and other industries that help maintain our clean and safe neighborhoods and lifestyles. 

Too often, we take clean water, and the work of our wastewater treatment plants for granted. Municipal wastewater treatment plants play critical roles in protecting and maintaining our access to clean water. Unfortunately, according to the Idaho Conservation League’s third annual Idaho wastewater treatment plant performance evaluation, 87 municipal wastewater treatment plants, or 76%, have had one or more discharge violations.  Idahoans rely on these treatment plants to keep our water clean and safe for us, our families, our pets and Idaho’s wildlife, but this report shows most of them are falling short. According to the report, over a three-year period between January 2016 and December 2018, 114 wastewater treatment plants were reviewed and added into the report, accruing a total of 1,732 discharge violations. These violations have a detrimental impact on aquatic life, livestock, animal and human health.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , to maintain control of polluters including wastewater treatment plants, the CWA prohibits anybody from discharging "pollutants" through a "point source" into a "water of the United States" unless they have an NPDES permit. In Idaho, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is in charge of issuing these permits, which they call Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) permits. Since every wastewater treatment plant is different, discharge permits also differ from facility to facility. Each permit is developed using water quality data and other metrics to ensure protection of the health of the waterbody receiving treated sewage, the aquatic life in that waterbody, the health of people who recreate in the water, and the water supply of downstream communities. 

These permits limit a variety of pollutants that can harm human health, fish and other aquatic life in the waterbody. For example, limits are required for E. coli, which comes from fecal contamination and can cause serious diseases, and phosphorus, which when in a waterbody acts as a fertilizer leading to harmful algal blooms, aquatic weed growth, and harmful oxygen levels for fisheries. These limits also cover a variety of pollutants, such as mercury, lead, copper, other toxic metals, chlorine and ammonia which harm fish and other aquatic life in the waterbody, and make it unsafe to fish, drink or swim. 

The EPA maintains an online database of all current discharge permits and supporting documents issued in the state of Idaho, which can be found here. No municipality wants to be on the receiving end of a CWA enforcement case. Distressing financial burdens are not going to help ensure public access to fishable, swimmable, drinkable waterways in Idaho. In fact, expensive penalty fines, court fees, and further enforcement actions can develop into overbearing financial burdens within communities that bring harsh economic ripples into our neighborhoods.

Municipal wastewater treatment facilities have a responsibility to maintain fishable, swimmable, drinkable waterways for Idahoans, but that doesn’t mean the responsibility is theirs alone. The effects of wastewater mismanagement impact more than just a facilities bottom-line, it impacts our livelihoods. Although the public has seemed removed from this issue in the past, we should be doing a lot more to stabilize our local economies and sustain our clean water and public health. Idaho Business for the Outdoors hopes to tie community stakeholders together around the issue of clean water through leading a month-long journey in August to raise awareness and support water quality education and action along the Boise River. Christopher Swain, our event leader, will be telling the story of our water quality data and bringing its content to life. Please follow our events through social media and download the Boise River: Source to Snake app from our events page if you haven’t already done so.

The information provided by the Boise River: Source to Snake event will give our communities resources that can reveal effective steps towards sustaining fishable, swimmable, drinkable waterways; our work must continue past Swain’s finish-line. Rather than operating the status quo, we need to take a serious look at how we handle our wastewater on a local level. Municipal wastewater treatment plants need community incentives for meeting the standards that ensure clean water. Communities can provide additional help to their local municipal wastewater treatment plant by investing money into upgrades, or more importantly, implementing constructive water treatment options and upgrades, while looking at water crates and constructed wetlands that remove phosphorous as an option, as well as storm drain education and water quality awareness and advocacy. 

More information:

  • Review the municipal wastewater treatment plant’s NPDES permit. These documents, as well as the fact sheets that provide greater detail and explain the permit conditions, can be accessed online here.  

  • Visit the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online website to review the performance of your local facility here.

  • Read the Boise Weekly article “Idaho Water Treatment Plants are Down the Drain” by Harrison Berry, July 17, 2019 here.

  • Review the full annual Idaho wastewater treatment plant evaluation, which lists the treatment plants that have passed and failed, along with the reasons of failure, by the Idaho Conservation League here.

  • Review the IDEQ 2016 Integrated Report here.

marissa warren
Press Release for Boise River: Source to Snake
by Graphica

by Graphica

Contact: Heather Dermott, Executive Director

208-340-3777, heatherd@idahobo.org


Water Quality Advocate to Swim Boise River’s 102-Mile Length

Idaho Business for the Outdoors’ water journey to help educate and celebrate the Boise  River

BOISE,Idaho – (July 25, 2019) – This August, renowned swimmer and water quality advocate Christopher Swain will become the first person to swim the Boise River from its source in the Sawtooth Mountains to its confluence with the Snake River. 

Idaho Business for the Outdoors, a non-partisan business member organization supporting Idaho’s public lands, public waters and outdoors, created the Boise River: Source to Snake journey to identify the river’s challenges and to celebrate the ecological, economic and social value it provides to the communities it sustains over its 102-mile length.

“While we each have a different relationship and connection to the river, the Boise River Watershed truly links us all,” said Idaho Business for the Outdoors Executive Director Heather Dermott. “Swain is our lead swimmer, but this is a community-wide water engagement effort. Through the Source to Snake swim and all the activities related to it we hope to empower citizen scientists and drive awareness and action to support fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters throughout Idaho.”

The organization has developed a free mobile app Boise River: Source to Snakefor the public to track simple actions to support the health of the river and to follow Swain’s progress in real-time. 

On August 8, Swain will start by swimming across Redfish Lake to access the trailhead to Spangle Lake, the source water for the Boise River high in the Sawtooth Mountains. Idaho Business for the Outdoors will provide citizen scientists and support crew to join Swain and document the journey as he travels from Redfish Lake to Spangle Lake, down to Atlanta, Arrowrock, Lucky Peak, Boise and all the way to Parma where the Boise River connects with the Snake River. 

Along the way, Swain will share his location, personal physiology and water quality data through social media. He will also stop to conduct stakeholder interviews with land owners, business leaders, community members, farmers, miners, students and river recreationists. 

In addition to data provided by Swain, Idaho Business for the Outdoors will be gathering baseline data on water quality from Source to Snake, supporting water workshops for high school students from Idaho City, Mountain Home, Boise, Caldwell, Eagle and Parma, and hosting community river engagement events. High school water workshops will focus on fishable, swimmable and drinkable water quality standards, as well as the economic and health benefits of outdoor recreation. 

Idaho Business for the Outdoors, community leaders and outdoors advocates will gather with Swain along the Boise River Greenbelt near the Julia Davis Bandshell at 11:30 a.m. on August 6 to officially kick off the Source to Snake swim. 

Additional community events include:

August 8          Redfish Lake Swim & expedition packs into Sawtooth Mountains to access trailhead to Spangle Lake at 10a.m.

August 9 or 10         Swain swims Spangle Lake and begins Boise River journey

August 24        Swim with Swain at Sandy Point (in partnership with Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, Boise Bike Project and the Challenged Athlete Foundation) 10a.m.-12p.m.

August 28        Swimming the Boise River: Source to Snake, City Club / Idaho Environmental Forum Lunch with Swain (The Grove, 11:45-1:15)

August 30        Friends of the River community eventat Kristin Armstrong Park with Christopher Swain, 5:30-8:30p.m. 


About Idaho Business for the Outdoors

Idaho Business for the Outdoors provides a collective business voice in support of the investments, jobs, innovations, revenues and wellness benefits sustained by our outdoors and public lands.For more information, visit https://www.idahobo.org

About Christopher Swain

Christopher Swain is the first person in history to swim the Hudson River, Lake Champlain and the entire 1,243 miles of the Columbia River from British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Swain swims to put threatened waterways squarely in the public eye, and to support water protection, restoration and education efforts. For more information, visit http://www.swimwithswain.org


An American River So Polluted It Caught Fire

It wasn’t just any fire. It was a fire on top of a river. On June 22, 1969 Cleveland Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught fire when a spark from a train crossing a bridge fell into the river, thick with industrial waste. Smoke and flames, some as high as five-story buildings, towered over the river. It was something people couldn’t ignore. A waterway in their own city was on fire.

“It smelled like a septic tank,” he says. “It literally bubbled and produced methane in July and August. It wasn’t bad—it was terrible. You can’t describe it using printable language.” This is how a boat operator recalled his river the summer of 1969 before his river caught fire and spurred a movement that cleaned up many rivers across America.

In 1972, Congress signed into law a historic piece of legislation, The Clean Water Act, that would turn the tide of our polluted waterways and hold big polluters accountable for their actions and attacks on the health of our communities. Prior to the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) enactment, 60% of waterways in the US were deemed not “fishable or swimmable” and the Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it was literally in flames. The goal of the Clean Water Act was to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters, and to return control of our nation’s waterways to the citizens of the United States as part of the public trust. Today the Clean Water Act continues to be challenged and eroded by big polluters and an increasingly lax regulatory environment.

Photo courtesy of: Trina Benson

Photo courtesy of: Trina Benson

A study released this month by Environment America Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group found nearly 60% of 4,523 beaches tested last year across the US had unsafe pollution levels that could make swimmers sick. A total of 871 beaches had to be closed. In Idaho today, 36% of streams and 55% of lakes are not fully supporting water quality standards, and an additional 31% of streams and 39% of lakes have not been assessed. Although we have a Clean Water Act today that defines contaminants of water and the total maximum daily load (TMDL) a waterway can support, an increasingly lax regulatory environment and exemptions for all non-point source pollution continue to challenge our waters in the U.S. and in Idaho. Non-point source pollution is pollution that doesn’t originate from a pipe. That includes urban and agricultural run-off into our waterways.

In an interview over a year ago, Barry Burnell, formerly the Administrator of the DEQ’s Water Quality Division, said that phosphorus loading contributed by runoff from pastures and croplands (primarily from animal waste, fertilizer runoff, and sewage treatment plant discharges) is the largest source of nonpoint phosphorus statewide and that non point source pollution was the single biggest challenge to water quality in our state. The 2016 Integrated Report by DEQ and approved by the EPA, reflects this knowledge showing elevated levels of phosphates and nitrates in many Idaho rivers. The report also shows that nearly 2,000 miles of streams/rivers in Idaho with E.coli, 3,000 miles with sediment, 3,000 miles with temperature problems, 260 miles with lead and 350 miles with mercury. 

As the Clean Water Act approaches its 50th year, we need to resurrect, restore and reactivate the foundational concepts and urgency that keeps our waterways fishable, swimmable and drinkable. 

The Clean Water Act has been part of the inspiration behind our summer event, Boise River: Source to Snake. Our Boise River is not on fire, but stretches of it face challenges as we contend with massive population growth, proposed mining operations at the Boise’s headwaters, and nonpoint source pollution. We need to bring agencies, NGOs, industry,community leaders and the public together to decide how we want to manage our rivers moving forward to drive the best health, business and wildlife outcomes.

While Christopher Swain, a renowned swimmer and water quality advocate, leads a journey over 150 miles of the Boise River, from its source in the Sawtooths, to its confluence with the Snake River, we will collect water samples, report on the health of our river, and interview various people about their hopes and dreams for the Boise River. Our goal is to initiate the foundational steps to incentivize community action towards achieving the goals originally put forward by the Clean Water Act in 1972, but we need your action to make waves - join us.

To view the IDEQ/EPA 2016 Integrated Report, click here.

For more information on the effects of nutrient pollution click here to visit Sourcewater Collaborative. 

River by Design

Nature gave us the Boise River and it is easy to believe that it is a wild part of the environment we so cherish in Idaho.   However, humans throughout history have stopped, shaped, changed, and used our landmark. Starting as snow in the Sawtooths and ending as a political boundary between states, our indispensable river has been designed in our own image.   In River by Design, editors Todd Shallat, Colleen Brennan, and Mike Medberry explore through various essays “the pyramids we Boiseans build on the Nile of our sagebrush Sahara, about cities and suburbs and other unmovable objects in the path of an invincible force.”   It is a fascinating look at how Boiseans have woven the river into our local history, culture, politics and economics. Find the book online, if you get a chance!   

by Doug Stan of Preservation Idaho 

Boise River: Source to Snake
Swain in Boise.jpg

We look forward to introducing you all to Christopher Swain! He is a renowned swimmer and water quality advocate and is the first person in history to swim the Hudson River, Lake Champlain and the entire 1,243 miles of the Columbia River from British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Swain swims to put threatened waterways squarely in the public eye, and to support water protection, restoration and education efforts. This summer, Idaho Business for the Outdoors is bringing Christopher Swain to swim the Boise River: Source to Snake.

Idaho Business for the Outdoors created this water journey to identify our river’s challenges, and to celebrate the ecological, economic and social value it provides to the many communities it sustains. Swain will start his Idaho expedition by swimming across Redfish Lake to access the trailhead to Spangle Lake, the source water for the Boise River, situated high in the Sawtooth Mountains. Idaho Business for the Outdoors will citizen scientists and support crew to join Swain and document the journey as he travels from Redfish Lake to Spangle Lake, down to Atlanta, Arrowrock, Lucky Peak, Boise and all the way to Parma where the Boise River connects with the Snake River.

Along the way, Swain will be gathering baseline data on water quality, sharing his location, personal physiology and water quality data through social media and through IBO’s mobile app. Swain will also attend community engagement events, and meet high school students from Idaho City, Mountain Home, Boise, Caldwell, Eagle and Parma. Student workshops will be inspired by the Clean Water Act and facilitated with our community partners along the river. They will focus on fishable, swimmable and drinkable water quality standards, as well as the economic and health benefits of our outdoors.

Join us this summer as we celebrate the Boise River, a resource we all share. Help us raise river quality and quantity awareness and together we will work to sustain healthy, prosperous communities along the Boise River watershed for years to come! Swain visited us earlier this month. Here are some media links we wanted to share with all of you:

Stand With Our Public Lands
View from Chocolate Gulch

View from Chocolate Gulch

Who: Senate Resources and Environment Committee
What: Hearing on H 162 "Federal Lands Council" bill
When: Monday, March 11, 2019
Where: Capitol Building, Lincoln Auditorium (WW02)

CALLING ALL BUSINESS MEMBERS, SUPPORTERS and FRIENDS: Two years ago, Idahoans came together from across the state to join the largest public lands rally in the west. The message was clear - our public lands sustain us, our businesses and our quality of life. Many of you live and work in Idaho because of our access to public lands. You enjoy recreation on public lands: hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, boating and biking. You graze your animals on public lands. Or, your very livelihood depends on public land access and the health of our outdoors. What's clear this year, is our public lands need you now, more than ever.

On Monday, the Idaho State Senate's Resources and Environment Committee will be hearing H 162 in the Lincoln Auditorium (WW02), a bill that could have far reaching implications for the future and continuance of public lands in our state. It has already passed the House and needs to be stopped in the Senate. H 162, introduced by Judy Boyle (R-Midvale), seeks to establish a permanent "Federal Lands Council." The last time this kind of committee was formed the intention was to demand that the federal government transfer all public lands to the state (which we know historically results in land sales, privatization and lack of access).

The very same people who led that effort are behind this bill. NOTE: H 162 claims to seek a closer relationship with the federal government. There are nearly a dozen other state agencies and offices already in place to do this. We do not support legislators attempting to create a public lands takeover committee funded by Idaho taxpayers in perpetuity. The bill's language gives the Council power to "hire legal counsel" and mandates that they "shall facilitate contracts." These sweeping authorities are the job of our executive branch and unnecessary if H 162 is really about cooperating with our federal land managers. Tasking this kind of committee with facilitating contracts duplicates services already being done and is not fiscally sound.

We need YOU to join us at the hearing to show lawmakers that we stand up for our public lands (with wide bi-partisan support).

The hearing gets starts at 1:00 p.m. in the Lincoln Auditorium (WW02), but we encourage you to arrive early to be seated. Our presence sends a resounding nonpartisan message to members of the committee that Idaho supports its public lands. It will take all of us!

Please note, no signs will be allowed in the hearing room and everyone must be seated.

Idaho Business for the Outdoors is a united, nonpartisan business coalition supporting the economic and quality of life advantages our public lands and outdoors sustain.

State-Specific Outdoor Rec. Data Is Needed In Idaho

As a coalition of Idaho’s leading businesses and innovators, IBO believes our public lands, farms, ranches and outdoors are vital to our quality of life and our state economy. Our scenic bike trails, rivers, lakes and mountains are our playground. Our working farms and ranches help put food on our tables. Our outdoors are a valuable marketing tool for Idaho businesses trying to attract and retain skilled employees who could live anywhere.  

Photo by Trina Benson

Photo by Trina Benson

While scenic trails, rivers, parks, lakes and mountains are our playground and support public health, the total economic value of our outdoors remain largely unmeasured and undervalued in Idaho.  Nationally, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) published its first report in February of 2018, showing how outdoor pursuits like skiing, biking and boating, as well as the tech, innovation and gear companies that support these pursuits, help drive the U.S. economy.  

  • Our U.S. recreation economy accounted for 2.0 percent ($373.7 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016  

This initial outdoor recreation satellite account does not measure the value of outdoor recreation by state. We need this kind of state-specific data in Idaho, as well as the engagement of a broader set of stakeholders as we try to advocate for the total value of our public lands and outdoors.

The historical lack of detailed state-specific data regarding outdoor recreational activities continues to handicap Idaho, our private and public sector, as well as our state overall. With an abundance of outdoor amenities and public lands (63%), our Idaho way-of-life and diverse state economy depends on our ability to maintain our lands and waters. IBO creates a strong and diverse business voice to support research that measures the value of our outdoors in supporting investments, jobs, innovations, revenues and wellness benefits.  More data helps us plan, grow, and properly fund the outdoors as a dynamic and vital part of our Idaho economy. 

Heather Parkinson Dermott
CHALLENGE your co-workers, friends and family!

Dear Members and Friends,

It's getting close. We'll even let you start early.
February 14 - CHALLENGE ON!  

Show your LOVE for Idaho's outdoors and reap the health benefits of time outside! Invite your employees, customers and friends to take it outside every day. Whether it’s a walk, a run, a bike ride, a trip to the park with your kids, a nordic ski, quiet time sitting on your porch, or simply walking to the mailbox each day - COUNT IT! We often take our outdoors for granted in Idaho, but sometimes we need a reminder of how lucky we are to live in the outdoor state. Let’s celebrate and capture our daily outdoor adventures.

Let one outdoor adventure inspire another! GET OUTSIDE DAILY in 2019 and post a pic. of your outdoor adventure on Instagram with the hashtag: #idahooutside365

On Instagram just add this hashtag to your photos: #idahooutside365


WHY?  Time outdoors boosts mental health, reduces stress, improves concentration and creativity. Studies show it’s one of the best ways to prevent and treat many illnesses. Access to nature is starting to be recognized as a social determinant of health.

(Follow me: @idahobusinessforoutdoors) A year from today we’ll give a shout-out to those who achieved 365 days, and to any of you who got anywhere close. Keep in mind, it’s never too late to join this CHALLENGE!

Who’s in?! :)

  • Thank you for supporting and helping to protect our public lands and waters!

New Public Meeting for CuMo Mine Scheduled

USDA Forest Service will hold one public meeting during the current 30-day Notice and Comment Period for the CuMo Exploration Project which closes on February 22, 2019.

When:  February 6, 2019 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Where:  Best Western Plus - Vista Inn at the Airport, 2645 Airport Avenue, in Boise, Idaho.  

The public meeting will be conducted in an open house format with the overall goal to share with the public the current supplemental environmental analysis.

To comment on the project via the webpage: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=52875
To comment on the project by email: comments-intermtn-boise@fs.fed.us

Please include “CuMo Exploration Project” in the subject line of the email.

Fore more information on this exploration project, please see our recent blog posts below.

Heather Parkinson Dermott