From skiing and hunting to horseback riding and camping, federal lands are key providers of the landscapes and facilities that characterize most Americans’ outdoor recreation experiences. In addition to the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits outdoor recreation provides, it also contributes to the U.S. economy by supporting jobs and providing income, particularly in rural communities near recreation destinations. This contribution was formalized in December 2016 when the Outdoor REC Act was enacted, requiring the federal government to report how outdoor recreation contributes to the United States’ Gross Domestic Product.
Amid this renewed interest, the Pacific Northwest Research Station published a general technical report that summarizes recent trends and projections of participation in recreation activities to 2030 and their effects on economic opportunities.
“The Forest Service has a lengthy history of projecting future trends in outdoor recreation on public and private lands as part of the Agency’s Resources Planning Act assessments, but this information is usually contained in multiple reports,” said Eric White, a research social scientist with the station and lead author of the report. “Our report provides a synthesis of the most-recent projections in one location and so provides a comprehensive snapshot of current and future recreation participation.”
Among the findings:
The report also explores the potential impact of climate change on recreation and found that changes associated with a warming climate can affect people’s willingness to participate in recreation activities or affect the availability and quality of resources themselves.
“We hope that policymakers and managers will use our projections of future outdoor recreation participation to inform decisions about what recreation opportunities to provide and how to manage recreation resources,” White said.
The project was funded by the Forest Service’s National Center for Natural Resource Economics and coauthored by scientists from the agency’s Southern Research Station and Washington Office and the University of Georgia.