New Study Shows Outdoor Recreation Key to 87,000 Arizona Jobs

Date: 5/6/2011

The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has completed an economic study which shows that more than 87,000 Arizona jobs and $371 million in state tax revenues are supported by “human-powered recreation” such as climbing, hiking, mountain biking and camping.

The Access Fund was awarded a grant in 2010 to demonstrate the economic value of the human-powered recreation community in Arizona to encourage policy decisions supporting conservation and low-impact recreation on public lands. The Access Fund worked with an Arizona-based economist to study, document, and quantify the economic production of these activities from cradle to the grave. The scope of this study measured the total economic value these activities and associated industries bring to Arizona, including gear manufacturing, retail sales, travel, trade shows, and local businesses catering to recreational tourists (gas stations, food and beverage, camping and accommodations, retail establishments, etc.). Although this initial effort focused exclusively on Arizona, the Access Fund hopes to replicate this study in other states to demonstrate the value climbers bring as an economic force.

The report from two Arizona economists, both Arizona State University alumni, shows that legislative efforts to cut funding for public lands management and land conservation, which support human-powered recreation, could put greater pressure on Arizona’s hospitality industry and rural areas, which both depend on outdoor adventurers.

“Outdoor recreation is critical to Arizona’s hospitality and tourism economy,” said Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association, a 42-year old environmental public interest organization that counts many of Arizona’s largest corporations, small businesses and government agencies as members. “Our elected leaders must understand that Arizona’s recreation areas do more than fuel healthy lifestyles – they fuel our economy. Cutting our investment in state and national lands puts the brakes on any economic recovery here in Arizona.”

Specifically, the study shows:
• 38 percent of human-powered recreation outings result in an overnight stay.
• Human-powered recreation produces $5.3 billion in annual retail sales in Arizona and generates nearly $371 million in state tax revenue.
• Spending on human-powered recreation activities is responsible for 12 percent of Arizona’s total retail economy.
• Human-powered recreation directly supports nearly 87,000 Arizona jobs, and indirectly supports another 100,000 jobs.

“We know that climbers, hikers, bikers and boaters leave an important economic impact on the local economy, but we wanted to be able to quantify that impact as much as possible,” said Brady Robinson, executive director of the Access Fund.

Will Cobb, who heads the Northern Arizona Climbers Coalition, regularly sees the impact of outdoor recreation on local economies. “When someone takes their family or friends to a national park or recreation area in Arizona, they stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and spend money with local gas stations and retailers—to say nothing of the money they spend with tourism and outfitting businesses,” he said.

Several legislative efforts to cut public lands funding at the state and federal level threaten Arizona’s tourism industry, but none more directly than potential cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Some in Congress aim to drastically cut the 40-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides for local communities to use federal resources to preserve outdoor recreation areas for climbing, hiking, fishing, biking and other outdoor activities. LWCF uses no federal discretionary dollars and is deficit-neutral; the LWCF has been funded entirely by oil and gas royalties since its implementation. Cuts to LWCF would not reduce the federal deficit, but would be damaging to Arizona’s tourism industry.

The LWCF helps fund state projects submitted and suggested by the State of Arizona, relying on “local control” for development and implementation plans. Specifically, the LWCF includes several current and upcoming projects:

• The 2011 federal budget includes more than $13 million for six Arizona recreation projects, including the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and the Petrified Forest National Park.
• The 2012 federal budget includes nearly $8 million for Arizona projects including Shield Ranch and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
• Past LWCF projects include the Phoenix Metro Area Bikeway Development, bicycle trail developments in Flagstaff, the Scottsdale City Bikeways, the Tempe Sports Complex, the Municipal Golf Course in Casa Grande and Prescott City Park.

On the heels of the release of this new economic study, Arizona’s small business owners—many of whom rely on human-powered recreation—are asking Arizona’s elected officials to protect tourism-related jobs. To obtain a copy of the full report, click here.

“This report shows that preserving hiking and biking opportunities supports tourism jobs, which is a key part of an economic recovery in Arizona. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to help dig Arizona out of this hole and get our economy moving again. That means keeping our lands open and beautiful,” says Matt Brown, founder of outdoor travel company Rubicon Outdoors in Prescott, Arizona.

“Congress can get a lot wrong – but here it has an opportunity to do something right,” says Richard Fernandez, owner of Pesto Brothers Italian Restaurant in Flagstaff, Arizona. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is on the chopping block, but it shouldn’t be. This is a common-sense initiative that requires no tax revenue, yet the programs it funds are important tourism drivers that bring people into my restaurant. Protecting Arizona’s tourism economy should be a no-brainer.”