ORR commissions comprehensive study of federal spending on outdoor recreation, associated trends, and issues that impact future funding needs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) released a pivotal report, “Recreation Funding in America: Current Results and Future Insights.” The comprehensive study conducted by Southwick Associates, Inc. on behalf of ORR aggregates and analyzes current federal funding streams for outdoor recreation and identifies potential future threats to these funding sources including changing energy demands, evolving participation, impacts of inflation, weather events and climate change, and stagnant appropriations trends. The report highlights the pressing need for innovative solutions to ensure sustainable funding for the $1.1 trillion recreation economy and the millions of Americans and communities who rely on it in the face of these threats. The report was made possible from the financial support of leading outdoor industry CEOs from KOA, Brunswick, Winnebago Industries, and Revelyst.

In response to the findings, ORR is highlighting potential solutions including increasing support for recreation in the federal budget, establishing a White House Commission on Outdoor Recreation, passing the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act, initiatives to welcome and support new recreation participants, and new spending models to address the growing funding challenges for our nation’s critical outdoor places, programs, and over 5 million Americans who work in outdoor recreation.

Jessica Wahl Turner, President of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, emphasized the urgency of the situation: “The need to identify future-proof revenue streams for outdoor recreation access and infrastructure has never been clearer. Outdoor recreation contributes 2.2% to U.S. GDP, yet only receives 0.16% of federal funding, a nearly 14x difference in scale. This report reinforces why it is paramount to establish a Presidential Commission on Funding Outdoor Recreation. As stewards of a sector that not only fuels a $1.1 trillion economy but also enriches the health and well-being of our communities, we must develop collaborative strategies to secure and enhance funding for our invaluable outdoor places and programs. Together, we can ensure that outdoor recreation thrives for generations to come.”

As pressures from increased visitation, aging infrastructure, and climate change intensify, the sustainability of outdoor recreation is more crucial than ever. This study provides a quantitative analysis of the funding landscape, outlining the economic disparities and potential threats to future support.

Key Findings:

There is an Escalating Funding Gap: The demand-supply gap in recreation funding – for such things as infrastructure on our public lands and waterways – could widen to $34 billion by 2042, exacerbated by climatic impacts, more users, and a decline in fossil fuel revenues.

Small Investment for Major Economic Impact: Outdoor recreation contributes 2.2% to U.S. GDP, yet only receives 0.16% of federal funding, a nearly 14x difference in scale. This suggests a need for a substantial increase in governmental support.

Need to Keep Pace With Inflation: Federal budgets for outdoor recreation must increase by 74% by 2042 to keep pace with projected inflation rates and maintain current service levels.

Recreation Relies on Diverse Revenue Streams: A significant portion of federal funding for outdoor recreation comes from non-general revenue sources, like excise taxes, user fees and fuel tax, emphasizing the need for diversified and resilient funding mechanisms.

Key Solutions: The industry should work together with stakeholders and policymakers to prioritize outdoor recreation in the federal budget, drive participation, foster private sector and philanthropic engagements, and create innovative models to fill funding shortfalls.

Check out the landing page for the report.