Outdoor Industry Association questioned the Bush Administration's sharp downward revision of recreation's role in the U.S. Forest Service's contribution to the U.S. economy.
But OIA said the bottom line is that even the new, unrealistically low numbers confirm that recreation deserves a lot more attention and resources in an agency that was built around extractive uses.
Even under the new numbers, recreation is still the most significant economic driver around National Forests, contributing 60% of National Forest System's contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); this is almost 4 times more than energy extraction and mining, and 2.5 times as much as timber harvests. Unfortunately, staffing and funding for recreation in the agency doesn't match up to this reality. Direct recreation management and trails spending is only about 10% of the Forest Service budget.
“If the Bush Administration truly believes in the validity of its new estimate, then we call on the Administration and Congress to step forward and fund recreation management at a level representative of its impact on the economy,” said OIA president Frank Hugelmeyer.
Previously, the Forest Service projected that by 2000, recreation in U.S. forests would contribute nearly $111 billion to the nation's annual gross domestic product. Bush administration officials have now cut that number back to $11 billion.
Under the old estimates, recreation accounted for 85% of the Forest Service's contribution to the GDP; under the new estimate, recreation represents 59%.
Hugelmeyer said the new number is unrealistically low given what is known about recreational equipment purchases and increasing participation in outdoor activities.
“Retails sales alone for gear associated with active outdoor recreation contributes $21 billion a year to the U.S. economy and we know that a significant portion of the 154 million Americans who take part in outdoor recreation do so on Forest Service lands,” Hugelmeyer said.
“This number alone shows how low the new estimate is without even taking into account expenditures for gas, airfare, local food and hotel rooms that benefit local communities across the U.S., ” he said.