By John Holyoke, BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
From Maine’s lengthy coastline to its vast forest — and everywhere in between — the outdoor recreational economy is a major driver that injects $8.2 billion in spending to the state each year, according to a report released by the Outdoor Industry Association on Wednesday.
In addition, that outdoor economy, which includes everything from hunting and fishing to wildlife watching, motorcycling, skiing, and hiking, generates 76,000 jobs in the state, according to the report.
“No matter your political affiliation, where you live, or your walk of life, the outdoors brings us together,” said Amy Roberts, the OIA’s executive director in a press release accompanying the state-by-state breakdown. “From Maine to California, consumers are spending more on outdoor recreation as millions of Americans depend upon it for their livelihoods.”
The OIA describes itself as the leading trade organization for the outdoor industry. The state breakdown issued Wednesday follows a nationwide report that was released earlier this year.
Other key points in the Maine-centric report:
70 percent of Maine residents participate in outdoor recreation each year.
In Maine, outdoor recreation generates $2.2 billion in wages and salaries, and $548 million in state and local tax revenue.
Spending on recreational watersports ($1.3 billion) was nearly double the state’s total landed value of commercial seafood ($721 million).
Nationally, the outdoor recreation economy generates $886 billion in annual consumer spending and 7.6 million American jobs, according to the OIA.
In an interview, Alex Boian, the OIA’s vice president of government affairs, said Maine’s 70 percent participation rate was impressive.
“From our data, it’s one of the higher states as far as participation,” Boian said. “I’d say any state that has seven of 10 folks recreating is really great, and it [sends] a powerful message.”
Boian said Maine’s senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, have shown a commitment to the state’s outdoor recreation economy, and recognize its potential.
“Those of us who are fortunate enough to call Maine home know the importance of outdoor recreation to our economy. Maine’s natural beauty, coupled with the many recreational opportunities our state offers across all four seasons, encourages Mainers to spend time outside and draws millions of visitors each year,” Collins said in the OIA release.
The state’s best known outdoor vendor, L.L. Bean, also issued a statement emphasizing the role that the outdoor recreational economy plays.
“For over 100 years, L.L.Bean has been an advocate for the outdoors and has focused on inspiring people to share the joy the outdoors brings. Our home state of Maine is synonymous with the outdoors and recreational opportunities, said Steve Smith, president and CEO of L.L.Bean. “OIA’s outdoor recreation economy report makes it clear that outdoor recreation is essential not only to Maine’s quality of life but also to the state’s economic vitality.”
Boian said the report can serve as a call to action for leaders as they consider the opportunities that outdoor recreation can present.
“Our message is, the outdoor recreation economy contributes to healthy communities and healthy economies in Maine and across the United States,” Boian said. “So how do you perpetuate that? How do you grow the outdoor economy? It’s by investing in the recreation infrastructure, the public lands themselves, and making sure that people have access to recreation, that the lands are properly managed and funded.”
The list of activities that forms the outdoor recreation economy, according to the OIA, is vast and includes such varied activities as wildlife viewing, motorcycling, all kinds of boating, hunting, fishing, bicycling and camping or staying at a rustic lodge.
In all, 45 different activities are listed individually. On that list are seven that have been added since a similar report was last completed a decade ago: running three or more miles, horseback riding, mountaineering, surfing, scuba diving, sailing and skateboarding.
That wide range of activities throws a huge umbrella over a number of recreational pastimes, and helps explain why the economic impact is so large.
And protecting existing access to public lands is also a priority of the OIA, Boian said.
Boian said the OIA has also kept a close eye on the current Trump administration review of 27 national monuments, including Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
“We have engaged our industry, the brands themselves, the brands in Maine, the brands across the country, we’ve asked them to communicate during the public comment period, to protect not only Katahdin [Woods and Waters], but monuments across the country that are under review,” Boian said. “And [we’ve asked that people say], “Look, President Trump and Secretary [of the Interior Ryan] Zinke, you really do need to protect these places in order to keep the recreation economy viable.”