Why Nevada Needs an Office of Outdoor Recreation

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by Mauricia Baca, Executive Director of Get Outdoors Nevada

One of the greatest success stories of the last few years has been the boom in our outdoor recreation industry. Last year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released data showing that outdoor recreation accounted for 2.2 percent of GDP in 2016. The BEA found that while the overall U.S. economy grew 1.6 percent in 2016, the outdoor recreation economy grew faster, at a rate of 1.7 percent. A 2018 Outdoor Industry Association study also found that the outdoor recreation industry in Nevada generates $12.6 billion in consumer spending and $4 billion in tax revenue while employing 87,000 people.  Even if you believe these numbers are only half right, they’re impressive.  This sustainable industry represents an opportunity to strengthen and diversify Nevada’s economy.

Yet Nevada lacks the structures to ensure this economy’s success. We are one of the few states in the West without an Office of Outdoor Recreation, and we’re already losing ground to states like Colorado.  Colorado’s Office of Outdoor Recreation has been in place for four years.  They prioritize economic development, conservation and stewardship, education and workforce training, and health and wellness.  Among their successes is attracting Outdoor Retailer Show. The Outdoor Retailer Show brought at least $45 million to Utah each year, according to estimates by Salt Lake County’s tourism bureau. In 2017, the organizers decided to leave Utah because they did not see a commitment to protecting public lands. Colorado demonstrated that commitment and brought Outdoor Retailer to Denver. Now, having added a November winter market, Denver estimate that they will bring in $110 million every year.

Colorado’s success demonstrates that states flourish when they support their outdoors – recognizing that public lands are important environmental, community and economic assets. Nevada could be doing much more to care for the resources that support the outdoor recreation industry, strategically draw more visitors, investors and job-creators to our state. All of Nevada’s elected leaders, from the Governor to legislators to our Congressional delegation, must support our great outdoors and oppose any measure that threatens to debilitate this important economic and recreational sector. Governor Sisolak and the Nevada Legislature have the opportunity to study what others have done and improve upon it, highlighting the Silver State as an outdoor destination gem while strengthening our economy.