Utahns are big spenders on outdoor recreation — to the tune of $7 billion yearly, group says

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) A distant thunder cloud provides a dramatic backdrop as a group from SPLORE floats down the Colorado River recently during a three-day trip. New data from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) indicates Utahns spend more than $7 billion each year on outdoor recreation.

Utah residents are big spenders and active participants in outdoor recreation, dropping more than $7 billion each year, according to new data compiled by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

The association on Tuesday released a report breaking down spending by residents in all 435 of the nation’s congressional districts.

“Whether they are hiking, camping or skiing, outdoor recreation provides jobs and important economic development opportunities for communities throughout Utah,” said Rep. John Curtis said in a written statement. His southeast Utah district is home to 288 outdoor companies and is popular for trail sports, camping and fishing.

Spending totaled $1.87 billion among those in his 3rd District; $1.77 billion in Rep. Mia Love’s 4th District on the Wasatch Front; $1.85 billion in Rep. Rob Bishop’s 1st District in northern Utah; and $1.89 billion in Rep. Chris Stewart’s 2nd District.

Statewide, Utah’s outdoor recreation economy generates $12.3 billion in annual consumer spending and supports 110,000 jobs, by the association’s tally. Out-of-state visitors spend nearly $5 billion.

The data also indicated nearly three-fourths of Utah residents engage in outdoor recreation and nearly one-fourth of trips are done within a 30-minute drive of home.

“Communities across the United States are stronger when our elected leaders invest in outdoor recreation,” said Amy Roberts, OIA executive director. “In every congressional district across the nation, outdoor recreation provides much-needed diversity to local economies, but it also helps bridge what divides us and brings this country together.”

There’s a political argument behind the numbers as well. The trade group, representing outdoor gear makers and retailers, often cites such economic impact data to support its arguments in support of public lands, which is where most recreation opportunities are available.

“It is critical that we protect the land and water that are the foundation of this powerful economic driver and continue to invest in and support these state and local recreation economies so that we can all continue to thrive outside,” Roberts said.

Utah’s public-lands policies, which often put resource extraction and motorized access ahead of conservation, were behind the trade group’s decision last year to move its lucrative shows out of Salt Lake City.

On Tuesday, OIA cited the economic data to call for better funding for trails and state and local parks; community planning that enables residents quick access to outdoor recreation; and the group encouraged outdoor entrepreneurs to start new businesses.