Recreation continues to play an important and growing role in Wyoming’s economy, according to a report released July 26 by the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade organization.
Outdoor recreation generates $5.6 billion in annual consumer spending in the state, according to Southwick Associates, the market-research firm that conducted the study. That’s up more than $1 billion from four years ago. Recreation generates $1.6 billion in wages and salaries, compared to $1.4 billion four years ago, and $514 million in state and local tax revenue, up from $300 million the last time the organization released a similar report.
The study also showed recreation provides about 50,000 jobs in Wyoming, employing about 8.5 percent of the state’s population.
Only Alaska has a higher percentage of people working in the outdoor industry, according to Outside magazine. The reported 73 percent of people in Wyoming who participate in outdoor recreation each year puts the state fourth highest in the ranking of resident recreation enthusiasts.
“None of it surprises me,” said Walt Gasson, director of endorsed businesses for Trout Unlimited. “We would be naïve if we were surprised. The economic measure here is merely confirmation of what we kind of all know in terms of the non-quantitative picture of what we’re all about as a people and as a state.”
The numbers are particularly notable now as the state grapples with trying to diversify its economy, Gasson said. It’s a cyclical issue. When the energy industry declines people always talk about what can be done, and emphasizing recreation and tourism is “always our go-to,” he said. It’s why people come to the state and why people live in Wyoming, he said.
The numbers are a reminder of what people in Wyoming value, and lawmakers should consider them when making policy that could impact recreation access, Gasson said. To Gasson, it’s not about doing something else as much as it is about protecting what is already in place, specifically public land access.
“If you can look at those numbers and still believe it’s a good deal to divest our public lands … if you can look at that and think, ‘oh, we can do better if those public lands are in private ownership,’ that’s ridiculous and simply not true,” Gasson said.
Instead, the state should find ways to better market Wyoming’s recreation opportunities and find ways to support businesses in the industry.
Read the full story here.