June is Great Outdoors Month. Americans are encouraged to go fishing, boating, hiking, and to “Find Your Park” at a National Park. 

This month-long celebration first emerged during the Clinton administration as “Great Outdoors Week.” Succeeding presidents elevated the celebration to a month-long affair and governors have joined in to highlight the benefits of spending time outdoors and on the water. To learn about its importance, let’s play this party game/icebreaker “Two Truths and a Lie.” 

A. Outdoor recreation plays an important role in the U.S. economy.
B. The Biden administration is expanding outdoor opportunities.
C.  Americans can easily access the Great Outdoors.

A. TRUE. Per the most available Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data, the outdoor recreation economy comprises nearly 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP)—or $454 billion. Another figure suggested the economic footprint is closer to $689 billion at 2% of the GDP. In total, the outdoor industry employs 4.3 million people—or 3% of all U.S. employees.

Boating and fishing are the most popular conventional activities followed by RVing, hunting/shooting/trapping, and snow activities. Participation in outdoor recreation is also well-pronounced. The most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report assessing fishing, hunting, and wildlife-associated recreation—the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (FHWAR)—said: “Over 103 million U.S. residents 16 years and older participated in wildlife-related recreation.” Most people were engaged in wildlife watching (86 million) followed by fishing (35.8 million) and hunting (11.5 million). Angler, gun owner, and hunter expenditures generated a historic $1.6 billion haul for conservation funding last year. 

B. LIE. Although the Biden administration has pledged to boost outdoor recreation, many of their rules paradoxically will restrict public land and water access to millions of outdoor recreationists.

A proposed Commerce Department rule wants to lower the vessel speed for boats measuring 35 to 65 feet in length down to 11.5 miles per hour. This could potentially displace 63,000 recreational vessels from Massachusetts to Florida for upwards of six months. Over 340,000 fishing and boating industry jobs and $84 billion in economic activity would be at risk, as well. The Biden administration claims this measure will protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from vessel strikes. Nevertheless, the fishing industry worries these closures will create no-go zones in offshore waters and stop trips altogether.

The Department of Interior’s  Alaska Subsistence Board closed over 60 million public land acres to hunting opportunities for non-locals. The USFWS conditioned new national wildlife refuge openings on future lead tackle and bullets—a move interpreted as pricing out consumers from these conventional activities. A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule to promote “conservation leases” putting conservation on equal footing with multiple uses (timber, grazing, fishing, hunting) is actually preservationist since it’ll allow preservationist groups like the Sierra Club, for instance, to purchase these leases for non-uses that often exclude outdoor recreationists from access. 

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is expected to proceed with a rule to permanently shutter 226,000 forest land acres in Colorado to target shooting opportunities. 

C. TRUE. Regardless of geography, Americans can easily access recreational opportunities. There are 63 official National Parks and over 420 public lands under the purview of the National Park Service. If a National Park is too far, state parks are great alternatives. 

Fishing and boating opportunities are available in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Just get a license ahead of time. New to fishing? States host Free Fishing Days to hook in new or lapsed anglers into the sport.

Camping and hiking opportunities can be mapped out online and by using apps. 

There’s no shortage of opportunities to get closer to nature and support conservation while doing so.

Bottom Line: 

Our economy benefits from having access to public lands and public waters and supports millions of livelihoods. True conservation practices allow this sector to flourish.

There are many innumerable health benefits associated with time outdoors. Being on or by the water is shown to improve well-being, just as immersion in green spaces is a boon to mental health.To learn more about true conservation, go here.