Four and a half years ago, I was on Capitol Hill testifying before Congress that the outdoor recreation industry is a force for job creation and, as such, should be taken into account when considering policy proposals that affect public lands. I’d brought with me the latest report from the Outdoor Industry Association, which showed that the industry generates $646 billion in consumer spending per year and supports over six million jobs.
After completing my testimony before the U.S. House Committee of Natural Resources, then-ranking minority member Rob Bishop (the Utah Republican is now Committee Chairman) challenged the figures I presented, saying he didn’t believe any of them were accurate, given that they were generated by an industry trade group. We were exaggerating the numbers for our own self-benefit, he said, and they couldn’t be trusted.
This situation has repeated itself in innumerable ways and situations in the years since—whenever I or another member of the OIA steps up to the podium to defend the value of our public lands. But a new bill introduced last week by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) would require the Commerce Department to track the industry’s economic impact—consumer spending and employment statistics—in the hopes that the information will influence future policy decisions. Their bill needs our support.