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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

Eight States Sign On To 'Confluence Accords' Outlining Goals For The Outdoor Recreation Industry

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Joe Adams
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A mountain biker in Green River, Utah. The outdoor recreation industry includes everything from mountain biking and fishing to RV touring.

Representatives of state outdoor recreation offices gathered in Denver Wednesday to sign something called the Confluence Accords.

The eight states include Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming.

Luis Benitez directs Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. He says nationally, offices like his represent an industry that’s responsible for 7 million jobs and more than $800 billion in consumer spending.

“That’s larger than the auto industry. It’s larger than the pharmaceutical industry,” he says.

Benitez says the accords are meant to be a set of guiding principles, almost like a treaty. The document includes a pledge to "advocate for conservation and stewardship ... and public access" to "land, air, water, and wildlife," and a pledge to  "address social determinants of health by increasing outdoor recreation opportunities for people of all backgrounds and abilities."

“Regardless of political ideology, we wanted a way for all the state directors to come together and say it doesn’t matter what state you're from and what you do, but for our industry and the national resources that support our industry, for our education and workforce training efforts, for the intersection between public health and wellness and the outdoor economy, these are our common, shared best practice principles,” says Benitez.

One of the four pillars of the accords is promoting public health and wellness. Benitez says he’d like to see more doctors prescribe time outdoors as treatment.

“There are states already out there with this program called ParkRx that are trying to make it prescriptive to encourage certain people with certain maladies to spend time outside and really have that be part of their wellness regime,” says Benitez. “What we want to do is amplify that nationally to make sure that it’s a serious focus within the healthcare industry.”

Other pillars of the accords include education and workforce training, economic development and conservation.

Tom Adams directs Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, which just five years ago became the first office of its kind. He says setting the focus for offices like his is particularly important in our region, which is experiencing rapid growth.

“Conservation and stewardship is a big one for us,” says Adams. “We need to figure out how to help people have the best experience possible -- including our tourists and our locals -- and be able to maintain and manage those areas so they’re not greatly impacted by the huge influx of people.”

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

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