Why spending time in wilderness is patriotic: A new report explains

Children enjoying an outing in the wild

The week of the Fourth of July is a great time for outdoor recreation. This is something Americans know well. But did you know that visiting the great outdoors is now patriotic? Here's why:

Every time you escape into wilderness, you will likely spend money on outdoor goods and services. If you're not dropping bucks on things like gear and equipment, there's a good chance you're spending money at local businesses, outfitters or lodging near outdoor recreation areas. All of that money ultimately goes to fuel the U.S. economy and U.S. jobs.

In fact, a new study from the Outdoor Industry Association reports that outdoor recreation continues to contribute to the U.S. economy, despite the economic downturns of recent years.

According to the report, the Outdoor Recreation Economy, Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation annually. And this spending supports 6.1 million American jobs.

So now in addition to the personal benefits of recreation -- think increased physical, mental and emotional health -- you can also feel good knowing that you’re contributing to a sector that's fueling the U.S. economy and keeping fellow Americans employed. Now that's patriotic.

The report also says that:

  • Spending on recreation gear, transportation and lodging supports more jobs than the industries of real estate, oil and gas, construction and education.
  • In recent  years, Americans spent more money on biking than on flying.
  • Outdoor recreation provides nearly $80 billion in tax revenues annually. 

The report measured the direct economic impact of ten outdoor recreation activities, including: bicycling, camping, fishing, hunting, motorcycling, off-roading, snow sports, trail sports, water sports and wildlife viewing.

And the outdoor recreation industry is outshining other industries. According to the report, the outdoor recreation economy is growing, despite a decrease in spending in other sectors. Between 2005 and 2011, the outdoor recreation sector grew 5% annually.

“Outdoor recreation can grow jobs and drive the economy if we manage and invest in parks, waters and trails as a system designed to sustain economic dividends for America." - Outdoor Industry Association

Despite that outdoor recreation also provides $80 billion in tax revenues annually, some government officials actually propose cutting park budgets.

But while the government debates its spending, you can boost our country's economy simply by continuing to enjoy our great outdoors.

Whether you bike, hike or camp, one thing is clear: The numerous economic, social, environmental and health benefits of recreation make outdoor recreation a good deal for Americans. 

Need ideas for planning your next wild adventure? See our top experiences.