When we think about why we love climbing, we think about the sheer joy of being outdoors, the boost to our souls, the tremendous health benefits, the strengthening of character, and the awe we feel about the land and mountains we climb. But at a time when public lands and climbing are threatened by monument reductions, increased energy development, and a changing climate, we need every tool in the toolbox and every argument we can make to protect climbing and the places we love.
You may remember back in November 2016 we saw a great win for climbing and outdoor recreation with passage of the Outdoor REC Act. The REC Act directed the Bureau of Economic Analysis to measure the economic impacts of the outdoor recreation industry, just as it does for agriculture, pharmaceuticals, mining, and other industries. Quantifying the economic importance of outdoor recreation gives concrete data to better inform decisions impacting the pursuits we love and our country’s natural resources.
Last week, the Bureau came out with its first preliminary numbers for the outdoor recreation economy, putting its contribution to the total US GDP at $373.7 billion, or 2% of the US economy. For comparison, mining, oil, and gas comprise 1.4% of GDP, and agriculture (which includes farming, fishing, forestry) is 1%. The Bureau’s report also found that the outdoor recreation economy is growing at 3.8%, faster than the overall economy’s rate of 2.8%.
This data came in handy last week when the AAC Policy Team was in Washington, D.C., meeting with Congressional staff alongside our partners at Outdoor Alliance. In our discussions with Republican and Democratic staff alike on national monuments, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and other issues relevant to climbers, it was critically helpful to point to the power of outdoor recreation to our GDP, and make the economic case for climbing and our public lands.
In addition, AAC advocates recently met with Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) at his office in Provo, Utah. AAC Director and Policy Committee Member Peter Metcalf, incoming Director John Bird, and professional athlete and AAC member Caroline Gleich sat down with the Congressman to discuss the AAC’s opposition to his bill on Bears Ears. It was a productive and open conversation, and while the AAC remains opposed to the Congressman’s bill as it stands, we are building relationships on both sides of the aisle to best advocate for climbers and the places we love to climb.
If you’re interested in becoming an AAC policy advocate and meeting with your members of Congress, please reach out to Policy Director Maria Povec, [email protected] and Policy Coordinator Anna Kramer, [email protected].