Stereotyping is never a good thing — primarily because such finger-pointing prejudices are usually unsupported by fact. Take, for example, the 140 million Americans who either dabble in human-powered outdoor recreational activities to some extent or are fully immersed in everything related to the backcountry and Wilderness itself.
That’s almost half the nation’s population, if my math skills are accurate. Yet whenever the beneficial goings-on of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) are in the headlines, many local and state politicians conjure up a negative image in their heads. “Oh yeah, those deadbeat climbers, those slacker surfers, those burned-out mountaineers.”
These closed-minded politicians fail to recognize who their outdoor constituents really are, and what the outdoor recreation industry means to the economy. And that includes activities from the local and state level, all the way up to the top — the National Park Service.
A report recently released by the Outdoor Industry Association estimates our industry produces $887 billion in annual revenues, and employs an estimated 7.5 million people, both fulltime and seasonally. Let me repeat that — $887 billion, with a B!
Statistics like these have local and state government officials beginning to sit up and take notice. And it’s got many of them thinking that maybe saving all these wilderness treasures might just be worth the expense. As a result, some forward-thinking states are creating offices of Outdoor Recreation with director-level positions. Take North Carolina for instance — which is home to