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Outdoor Recreation Economy Is Booming In The Mountain West, Analysis Finds

The outdoor recreation economy as a percentage of gross domestic product in each state
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
The outdoor recreation economy as a percentage of gross domestic product in each state

A new analysis from the Bozeman-based non-profit Headwaters Economics shows that the outdoor recreation industry is growing more than twice as fast as the overall economy, and the industry has an especially outsized role in the Mountain West.

The analysis, based on a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, details how our region’s public lands, national parks and hunting and fishing opportunities, among other assets, are fueling a booming outdoor recreation industry. In the Mountain West, the industry’s contributions to state economies grew by an average of nearly 25% between 2012 and 2017, compared to 16.6% growth nationwide.

Economist Ray Rasker, who authored the analysis, points out that the sector is multi-faceted.

“It includes manufacturing. It includes retail trade, of course. But also finance and engineering and a whole variety of other sectors of the economy,” Rasker said.

Snow sports, outdoor gear and apparel sales, and RVing were among the highest contributors to state GDPs in the Mountain West. Those sectors brought in more than $5 billion to the region’s economy in 2017.

Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy, measured as its contribution to the state’s gross domestic product, grew by 30% between 2012 and 2017, with the main contributors being snow sports and outdoor gear sales, the analysis found.

Utah’s outdoor recreation economy grew by 29%, Idaho’s by 25%, and Montana’s by 24%.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 91.5 KRCC. To see more, visit .

Ali Budner is KRCC's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.
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