Unanimous bipartisan support for the REC Act
How often do we see something sail through Congress with unanimous bipartisan support? Almost a year ago, President Obama signed the Outdoor REC Act into law with unanimous House and Senate support. This important legislation made it possible for the outdoor recreation economy to be counted as part of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). What does this mean? The U.S. government is now in the process of measuring and tracking the jobs, activities and value associated with outdoor recreation on public lands. This year, outdoor recreation will be counted as an economic sector in what are known as "national economic accounts" reported by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The government measures trends in other sectors within energy, health care and education for instance, but until now, it has not estimated the value of outdoor recreation to our GDP.
The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), a trade group representing manufacturers of outdoor gear and suppliers, distributors, and retailers, has provided the heavy lifting in terms of statistics and economic reports on America's outdoor recreation economy. In July 2017, they reported that our public lands are the very foundation of the the outdoor recreation economy which employs over 7.6 million and generates over $887 billion in consumer spending. While these numbers are valuable and OIA stands behind them - it is widely recognized the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is the gold standard. They track over 5,000 categories of goods and services to figure out what is relevant in scope to traditional and nontraditional outdoor activities and recreation and what should be counted. The BEA will release outdoor recreation GDP statistics as a prototype early in 2018 for public review and feedback; the final report will be published later in 2018. Next year the data will not reflect state, or even regional level statistical data, only national. With widespread and ongoing support and funding, the study will continue and narrower data sets by state may become available in the future.
Callin O'Brien-Feeney of the OIA, reported at the SHIFT conference in Jackson, Wyoming earlier this month, that their group will continue to gather their own statistics and publish reports, but they are happy to have the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) generating outdoor statistics and data as well. This number helps corroborate the validity and magnitude of the outdoors as a powerful economic asset with an expansive set of evolving activities associated with it.
At IBO, we believe the REC Act is an important next step as we start to make the the connection between healthy outdoors and a strong economy nationally and within our state. In Idaho, we have a wealth of open space and public lands to recommend us. Let's thank our Idaho Congressman for their support of the REC ACT legislation that recognizes jobs, revenues and innovations are associated with our love of the outdoors.