Boise river: Source to Snake - Christopher Swain’s Data


Swain will start his Idaho expedition in the Sawtooth Wilderness by swimming across Redfish Lake to access the trailhead to Spangle Lake, the source water for the Middle Fork of the Boise River. From there he will make his way down to Atlanta, swimming across Arrowrock, Lucky Peak, through 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 stop to conduct stakeholder interviews with land owners, business leaders, community leaders, farmers, miners, students and river recreationists.

Idaho Business for the Outdoors will be gathering baseline data on water quality from Source to Snake, hosting community engagement events, leading water workshops for high school students from Idaho City, Mountain Home, Boise, Caldwell, Eagle and Parma. 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, the economic and health benefits of outdoor recreation. Swain will be conducting stakeholder interviews all along the river with community leaders, farmers, miners, ranchers, land owners, students, and river recreationists.

We will be storing all the data and findings from stakeholder meetings we collect throughout the expedition here when the event is finished. In the meantime, keep up to date with Swain throughout his swim and participate in community activities with our app Boise River: Source to Snake.

Let’s celebrate a resource we all share. Help us raise river quality and quantity awareness to sustain healthy, prosperous communities along the Boise River watershed for years to come!


Outdoor Recruitment Survey

From Micron Technology, to St.Luke's Health Systems, businesses across sectors depend on our outdoors when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. In fact, 99% of Idaho businesses reached through a survey say Idaho's outdoors are an important factor in successfully recruiting employees.

In partnership with Boise State University's Economics of Sustainability class, Idaho Business for the Outdoors created an eight question survey for Idaho businesses to help evaluate the impact of our outdoors on economic growth and job recruitment in Idaho in 2018. The survey was delivered to over 300 businesses, across 5 different sectors of industry in Idaho. With 125 businesses responding, we had a 41% response rate. The average response rate for external surveys in the U.S. is only 10-15%, implying above average support and participation from Idaho business in regards to Idaho’s outdoors.

Of these respondents, Idaho's education sector uses the outdoors as a recruitment tool 100% of the time, with health care selecting they promote outdoor amenities 80% of the time. In addition, 72% of manufacturing industry respondents believe a reduction of Idaho’s outdoors would directly affect relocating employees to their region. Only 6% of the professional services industry respondents believe a reduction of our outdoors would not affect them in any way. It is clear Idaho’s outdoors are a significant marketing tool for Idaho's businesses.

The social and economic value of Idaho's outdoors must continue to be evaluated, measured, and reported to help build conservation policies and practices that sustain our outdoors for Idaho’s current and future generations.

For more information on our methodology and full findings, click here.

NorthWest Per-Capita Conservation Spending

The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes on Earth - containing some of the most desirable land for agriculture, recreation and living. Valuing Idaho’s recreational outdoors and public lands is vital for businesses, our state’s economy and our quality of life.

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. More data helps us plan, grow, and properly fund the outdoors as a dynamic and vital part of our Idaho economy. IBO decided to take the first step towards attaining some of this data through researching conservation funding in the Pacific Northwest.

Our preliminary findings report Idaho averaging $4.11 over the last 3 years in per-capita conservation spending while Montana averaged $35.34. Montana residents are accessing almost 9 times the benefits of their outdoors than neighbors just across the Clearwater River. Falling behind in conservation funding means missing out on millions of dollars of revenue from our greatest natural resource - our outdoors. These revenues help increase restoration and conservation of our natural resources to ensure long term and sustainable economic gains, while also benefiting our State’s education system and establishing a healthy and invigorating environment for our communities.

For more information on our methodology and full findings, click here.

idaho state-wide Air Quality

Scientists from around the globe continue to report connections between poor air quality and poor child health and education rates, life expectancy rates, and other dangerous health risks. For years health officials have warned the public of the dire effects of exposure to unhealthy air quality. However, alarming reports of wildfires, corporate pollution scandals and damaged ozone has consistently placed air quality reports on major news headlines and maintained an environment of increasingly harmful air quality.

IBO wanted to get a first-hand look on air quality levels across our state by accessing data from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). We found that Idaho has experienced increasing levels of unhealthy air quality since at least 2013. Air quality is very complex, so we focused on AQI levels, an index that focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. In 2017, 19% of the year exposed Idahoans to AQI levels over 100, with some containing “Hazardous” levels of pollution. 

This is not just a concern for sensitive groups of Idaho’s population, but for us who enjoy living active lifestyles and spending quality time outdoors as well. According to the EPA, active people of all ages who exercise or work outdoors are at increased risk. Limiting prolonged and heavy exertion is the only way to avoid being exposed to unhealthy air. This becomes especially problematic in places like Idaho, where quality of life goes hand in hand with access to the outdoors.

Please note in the graph created by IBO to the right, yellow represents unhealthy for sensitive groups (not moderate), orange represents unhealthy, red very unhealthy and purple hazardous.

For more information on our methodology and full findings, click here.

For more information on the impacts of air quality on health, click here to visit the World Health Organization.

Outdoor Access as a Social Determinant of Health


Access to the outdoors is starting to be recognized as a social determinant of health across the nation. When we think of social determinants of health a majority think of food, affordable housing, access to healthcare, jobs or a living wage. However, growing bodies of research suggest access to the outdoors has population health benefits that can't be ignored.

Idaho Business for the Outdoors has pooled together 21 peer-reviewed studies that show access to the outdoors and nature is a powerful social determinant of health. The studies review the impact of being in a natural environment, exercising in a natural environment, having a view of green space and infrastructure greenness on a person's health. In combination, these studies which include male and female children, children with mental disabilities, teenagers, adults, elders, racial minorities, and low-income communities, provide evidence that time spent in nature connects to increased emotional well-being and enhanced mental health.

One study, published this year by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, finds that Medicare costs tend to be lower in counties with more forests and shrublands than in counties dominated by other types of land cover. The analysis included county-level health and environmental data from 3,086 of the 3,103 counties in the continental U.S., and revealed that each 1 percent of a county's land that was covered in forest was associated with an average Medicare expenditure savings of $4.32 per person per year. Multiplied by the number of Medicare fee-for-service users in a county and by the average forest cover and by the number of counties in the U.S., this amounts to about $6 billion in reduced Medicare spending every year nationally. Adding the effects of shrublands increases the estimated savings to $9 billion annually. Researchers behind the study claim the relationship persists even when accounting for economic, geographic or other factors that might independently influence health care costs (Becker et al., 2019). 

Other similar studies have found access to the outdoors as an important, yet overlooked, social determinant of health and well-being. With about 34 million acres of public lands, Idaho has a clear, important and valuable health asset worth protecting, and we are well positioned to capitalize on this movement. While corporate wellness plans and exercise prescriptions are failing, the Outdoor prescription is building traction. By working to preserve our outdoors and public lands, we are not only good stewards of the land, but defenders of public health. 

As the second most active state in the nation, let's make the business case for our amazing outdoor access in Idaho as a positive social determinant of health that should be promoted and safeguarded.

To view the 21 peer-reviewed studies compiled by IBO, click here.

For more information on the impacts of air quality on health, click here to visit the World Health Organization.

Economic Impact Reports

Not only are our parks, waters, trails, and other recreation opportunities critical to businesses and job creation, quality outdoor access is a major contributor to healthy and productive communities. These reports help to better assess how our vital natural resources spark economic activity throughout the State of Idaho.

more research on the way!