The Economics of the Outdoors


As a kid, I would have cringed at that topic. Economics were for number-crunchers with pocket protector, pencil behind the ear, big glasses (I blame this stereotype on Sunday comics and TV sitcoms). I wanted nothing to do with economics, so I chose jobs in the outdoors – as a camp counselor, at an environmental education center, at a forest-based professional development program for teachers, and most recently here at Eastern Mountain Sports. I was wrong.

Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, each year generating $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs.” (Outdoor Recreation Economy Report, Outdoor Industry Association, published February 2013)

I, like many of you, have always believed in the health benefits of outdoor recreation, and the need to protect natural places for current and future generations. Now, we can add a new reason – to fuel our economy. Conservation, health, and economics all working together:. Who can argue with that?

Here are some more factoids from the report that I find fascinating:

  • At least 76% of New Hampshire residents participate in outdoor recreation each year.
  • Nationally, there are more people employed in outdoor recreation (6.6mill) than in construction (5.5mil).
  • Consumers spend $340M on motor vehicles, and $646M on outdoor recreation. (Nice to see we have our priorities straight!)
  • “The outdoor recreation economy grew approximately 5 percent annually between 2005 and 2011 – this during an economic recession when many industries contracted.”
  • Outdoor recreation impacts a much broader range of industries than just gear, licenses/permits, and outdoor places.

To finish with an inspirational quote from the National report: “Today’s outdoor lovers aren’t confined to traditional demographics or activity segments. They seek meaningful outdoor experiences in their backyards and in the backcountry. They are all genders, ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities and income levels. They live throughout America, and they view outdoor recreation as an essential part of their daily lives. They fill their garages with bicycles, dirt bikes, backpacks, boats, skis, tents, hunting rifles and fishing gear”

The world has changed, but its nice to see we’re still playing outside. I’ll keep doing my part raising the next generation to be even better than we are.

(All stats and quotes are pulled from state and national reports available at the Outdoor Industry Association’s website.)



Beth Marchand

Beth's love of skiing and summer camp led her to a career in the outdoors. After spending 13 summers at Girl Scout camp on Lake Winnipesaukee, obtaining degrees in wildlife & environmental education, and working 4 years with NH Project Learning Tree, Beth joined Eastern Mountain Sports. As marketing manager, she handles media & advertising, events & sponsorships, new store openings, conservation projects, and more. On the weekends, Beth and her husband, daughter, and dog can be found roaming the mountains, waters, and woods of Northern New England.