Whit Fosburgh

March 6, 2018

Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Spending Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

The Department of Commerce released the first-ever official data on outdoor recreation’s outsize impact on the American economy, and these numbers don’t lie

For the first time ever, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis has released data on the financial clout of outdoor recreation in America. Thanks to a 2016 law, the agency is now charged with tracking this sector as it does other parts of the U.S. economy.

The new BEA data quantifies what many of us already knew: Outdoor recreation is big business, accounting for $637 billion, or more than 2 percent, of the nation’s gross domestic product.

This doesn’t even consider trips of less than 50 miles—about two-thirds of all outdoor recreation trips are of the close-to-home variety—nor the sale of imported goods. Those numbers are included in the Outdoor Industry Association’s five-year report, the most recent of which showed that the outdoor recreation economy is worth $887 billion.

What is also striking about the BEA numbers is the growth rate of the industry. While the U.S. economy as a whole grew by 2.8 percent in 2016, the outdoor recreation economy grew by 3.8 percent—nearly 36 percent faster than the national economy.

It’s an extraordinary step forward to be able to quantify exactly how much America’s hunters, anglers, boaters, hikers, bikers, skiers, wildlife watchers, and other outdoor enthusiasts are contributing to a healthy economy and job market. When you consider that there are also many unquantifiable benefits of getting outside, including fostering healthy bodies and minds, you would think that growing this sector would be a top priority for our national decision makers.

This is not always the case. Right now, the same agencies charged with managing the 640 million acres of public lands that provide a foundation for outdoor recreation are being targeted for budget cuts. And the dilapidated infrastructure of our public lands facilities—from roads and visitor centers to trails and campgrounds—is an afterthought, at best, in the president’s recent infrastructure proposal, which is largely contingent on expanding the industrialization of our public lands.

According to the BEA’s findings, boating and fishing are key drivers of the outdoor recreation economy, accounting for almost $40 billion annually, but the president’s recent budget proposal shortchanges the federal agencies responsible for keeping our water clean and our recreational fishing sector thriving.

The EPA budget is slated for a 23 percent cut, and two U.S. Department of Agriculture programs aimed at incentivizing private landowners to improve land management practices and reduce polluted runoff would be eliminated. Meanwhile, massive dead zones caused by nutrient runoff in the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and South Florida directly impact fisheries and tourism.

It is time for the administration and Congress to take the outdoor recreation economy seriously and invest in this sector, and perhaps the BEA statistics will help this process. The availability of this new data should be celebrated, and Americans should demand that these numbers are recognized in every debate about the future of our country’s public lands, waters, and conservation incentive programs.

We can have strong energy, agricultural, and industrial sectors without directly harming the lands and waters that sustain the hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, birding, and biking industries—or the clean air, clean water, and open spaces that all Americans need.

But this will require a different mindset, one that rejects the notion that industrial jobs are somehow worth more than outdoor recreation jobs.

4 Responses to “Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Spending Shouldn’t Be Overlooked”

  1. Does that include the Pittman-Robinson (tax on firearms, ammo, archery tackle etc) and/or Johnson-Dingell (tax on fishing tackle) that is used as a cost share to states for restoration and habitat costs? Sportsman foot the bill(generally gladly) for public land and access.

  2. As stewards of this planet, it is our responsibility that the environment is stable and clean for future generations. As far as Teddy, he is my favorite president. He did more for our lands and is a big reason we have what we have. Read his bio. Amazing story.

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Coby Tigert

February 20, 2018

Putting These Public Lands Planning Tools on the Backburner Creates More BLM Backlogs

While new habitat challenges arise every year, land managers are stuck following management plans created in the 1970s and 80s—with no updates in sight

Conditions on Western landscapes are always changing, and sportsmen and women are often the first to experience the difference. We see intense wildfires burn large sagebrush landscapes, leaving invasive cheatgrass in their wake. The varying cycles of precipitation and drought have become more extreme, affecting wildlife habitats and sending wildlife into a roller coaster of population variation. And so the success of each hunting and fishing season ebbs and flows, as well.

While some of these unforeseen challenges have only emerged or escalated in recent years, many of the Bureau of Land Management offices tasked with facing them remain beholden to plans that haven’t changed in decades.

Like many of us who recall feeling a little less winded a few seasons ago, these resource management plans, or RMPs, aren’t getting any younger. And the ramifications are being felt in many of the places where we love to hunt and fish.

Stuck in the Past

With hundreds of plans in place to manage the BLM’s 245 million acres, ten or more revisions need to be completed each year to keep up with changing conditions on the ground and balance diverse demands on these lands. Exactly zero RMP updates were completed in 2017, largely due to a shift in administrative focus. Meanwhile, the old plans fail to address new problems and rely on science that may be decades old.

Delays in the revision process can often result in massive backlogs. In east Idaho, for example, five RMPs covering more than 5 million acres were expected to be in the planning process or completed by 2018. Of those, none have been completed and only one is in the planning process. And that plan—the Upper Snake RMP that will replace a plan from the 1980s—has been given a lower priority because it lacks oil and gas potential. Meanwhile, the importance of this habitat to tens of thousands of big game animals continues to go unaddressed.

Gradual Demise of Public Input

Updated plans not only reflect current resource conditions, but also public priorities. Based on legal requirements developed decades ago, the planning process provides the public with multiple opportunities to weigh-in on how they would like their public lands to be managed, either in writing or at in-person meetings. The BLM is tasked with providing information on any changes and other ways to engage on RMPs in progress.

We’re already contending with the absence of resource advisory councils—which have been shut down for nearly a year to be “reviewed”—and other cuts to public input. Neglecting RMPs is yet another way we are prevented from voicing our opinions on how public lands should be managed. These incremental changes add up to a big overall shift in how much say Americans have a say in the management of our public lands. These lands are important to all of us, and what seems to be unnecessary and never ending delays, has increased public dissatisfaction with the process and resulted in animosity and distrust.

Only by getting the planning process back on track can the BLM ensure that the interests of all Americans are incorporated into how our lands are managed for years to come. Our public land heritage is too important to put on the back burner.

The Buck Stops Here

Addressing the many clogs in the system that are contributing to the slowdown of RMPs means ensuring that the BLM is fully staffed and appropriately funded. The president, Secretary of the Interior, and Congress need to move quickly to fill important positons in the agency and budget for the future of public lands—because conservation shouldn’t be cut to offset new costs or pay for infrastructure.

We also need agencies to refocus on balanced multiple uses of public land, which includes managing for quality fish and wildlife habitat and our outdoor traditions. Let decision makers know that public land is sportsmen’s country by signing our petition to support responsible management of public land and wildlife habitat.



Kristyn Brady

February 9, 2018

Congress Passes Budget Deal with a Boost for Conservation Funding But No Fire Fix

Non-defense spending gets a bump, but the agreement doesn’t include a solution for fire borrowing, which saps the Forest Service of its budget for habitat maintenance and improvement

This morning, Congress passed a bipartisan budget agreement to end the cycle of short-term funding patches that has sustained the federal government through one-third of the fiscal year.

While a modest increase to conservation funding is likely with a $131-billion boost to non-defense spending, lawmakers again missed a major opportunity to fix the dysfunctional way we pay for wildfires in America—by forcing the U.S. Forest Service to borrow from accounts meant to fund maintenance and improvement of forest habitat once they’ve exceeded the budget for firefighting.

“Any increase to conservation funding is a good thing for America’s public lands, fish and wildlife resources, and sportsmen and women, especially given that conservation’s share of the federal budget has been cut in half over the last 40 years,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Conservation Funding BLM Montana
An increase in conservation funding means more support for our public lands. Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

“Congress’s failure to address fire borrowing in the most germane legislative vehicle for the purpose—especially after one of the most costly wildfire seasons on record—makes you wonder if they really want to find a solution for America’s forests and the federal land managers who are expected to safeguard these places on a shoestring. It’s frustrating for hunting and fishing groups who have been calling for a fix for years.”

Technically, funding for the government ran out at midnight last night, but the House voted to end the shutdown just a few hours ago. The agreement avoids a lengthy government shutdown, which could have temporarily halted ongoing conservation projects and closed some access.

Congressional appropriators still need to allocate funding to specific programs across the government by March 23. Appropriations bills will ensure that new conservation projects can begin and funding for outdated or ineffective efforts can be used for something else.

President Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 is expected early next week, as is the official version of a leaked report on proposed infrastructure improvements that may present opportunities to improve public lands facilities and wetlands. Stay up to date on TRCP’s response here.

Kristyn Brady

February 6, 2018

TRCP Ranked Among Top U.S. Charities for Fifth Year in a Row

Our financial health and accountability has earned us another exceptional 4-star rating from the leading charity evaluator in America

Usually we’re in it for the meat, not the trophies, but the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is very proud to announce our fifth consecutive 4-star rating from Charity Navigator—that’s the highest possible rating awarded by the nation’s largest independent charity evaluator.

This five-time recognition of TRCP’s financial health, accountability, and transparency puts the organization in the top 8 percent of American charities rated.

In a letter, Charity Navigator president and CEO Michael Thatcher says this designation indicates that the TRCP “executes its mission in a financially efficient way,” exceeding industry standards and outperforming most charities—not just in our area of work, but in the country overall.

“We’re honored to be recognized as a solutions-oriented organization that sportsmen and women can trust to represent their needs in Washington, D.C., where ongoing policy debates will decide the future of hunting and fishing,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Establishing this track record of financial accountability and transparency has been of utmost importance to us, and we hope it underscores the integrity with which we approach all of our communications and relationships with members, donors, foundations, and partners.”

The rating is based on TRCP’s financials and audit report through the end of 2016. Learn more here or read the Annual Report, which also details some of TRCP’s recent conservation policy successes.


Cheers. Photo courtesy of The Element.


Top photo by Steven Earley via Pheasants Forever

Kristyn Brady

January 20, 2018

Hunting and Fishing Access Closed and Conservation Work Halts as Government Closes

UPDATED 1/23/2018: On Monday, Congress ended the three-day government shutdown by passing a short-term funding agreement through February 8. Congress now has just a few legislative work days to figure out a more durable and bipartisan path forward on a host of issues before facing another shutdown crisis. By that time, the federal government will have been funded by short-term agreements for at least one third of fiscal year 2018, which began on October 1, 2017.

Posted 1/20/2018:

Congress’s failure to pass a stopgap spending bill means on-the-ground conservation professionals across the federal government won’t be reporting for work

This morning, the federal government will begin the process of closing, after the Senate was unable to pass a stopgap spending bill Friday night.

The effects of a government shutdown will be felt most acutely by sportsmen and women who were planning late-season hunts on national public lands and those who fish on lakes, rivers, and reservoirs administered by the Army Corps of Engineers or Bureau of Reclamation. Conservation projects will come to a standstill as federal land management agency staff are furloughed until Congress can reach an agreement.

“Although there’s less disruption to hunting and fishing opportunities at this time of year, we’re still disappointed to see this inability to find common ground and keep funds flowing to agencies that administer conservation and public access to America’s best fish and wildlife resources,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The closure of national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands during the 16-day shutdown in October 2013 sparked outrage and prevented licensed sportsmen from accessing hunting and fishing areas, while many outdoor recreation businesses were forced to cancel client bookings at the start of the lucrative fall season. This time around, the Interior Department has said that public lands will remain “as accessible as possible,” but that some areas could be closed without staff, campground maintenance crews, or rangers to patrol culturally sensitive or backcountry areas for visitor safety.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware, where a late-season deer hunt was planned for January 20. Photo by flickr user Jeffrey

The impacts of a federal shutdown are not limited to national public lands and waters. Private lands conservation professionals at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will be staying home instead of helping farmers and ranchers write conservation plans or prepare for the critical spring planting season. And everything from fish passage projects to chronic wasting disease research will be on hold.

“Hunters and anglers have a long list of things that Congress needs to address, including a much-needed funding fix for catastrophic wildfires,” says Fosburgh. “The continued brinksmanship on Capitol Hill serves no one; it only locks in problems and pushes real solutions further down the road. The public deserves better from its elected leaders.”


Top photo by Wisconsin DNR via flickr



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