Wyoming’s outdoor recreation economy has seen a remarkable increase in 2022, surpassing $2 billion and marking a significant milestone for the state. According to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the sector now accounts for 4.1% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The growth from $1.5 billion in 2021 to $2.02 billion in 2022 represents a $520 million increase in the state’s GDP. This surge places Wyoming fourth among all states in the U.S. for outdoor recreation growth, which stood at 26.1% for the year.
Employment in Wyoming’s outdoor recreation sector also witnessed a notable rise. The number of jobs increased from 15,285 to 16,202, making up 5.6% of the state’s total employment. This 7.7% growth in outdoor recreation employment in Wyoming surpasses the national increase of 7.4%.
Patrick Harrington, manager of the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation, highlighted the significance of this sector to the state. “Outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the Wyoming economy and is stitched tightly into what it means to live in our state, with endless opportunities to explore the great outdoors,” Harrington said. He also noted the collective efforts across Wyoming that have contributed to this economic advancement.
The report identified several outdoor activities that have shown substantial growth in 2022. Activities like RVing, hunting/shooting/trapping, snow activities, boating/fishing, and motorcycling/ATVing have not only grown but in some cases, surpassed their pre-pandemic economic contributions.
In response to the growing demand for outdoor recreation, the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation has been actively involved in promoting and enhancing responsible outdoor activities. The office has initiated various projects, programs, and partnerships at local, state, and national levels.
One of the key initiatives includes the establishment of eight Outdoor Recreation Collaboratives throughout Wyoming. These collaboratives focus on grassroots projects and initiatives aimed at fostering outdoor recreation growth and development in communities across the state.
The thriving outdoor recreation industry in Wyoming has led to significant developments aimed at sustaining and enhancing its economic impact. In July 2022, the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation announced the launch of the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Grant Program. Funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, this program aims to support public outdoor recreation projects throughout the state.
Further bolstering the sector, in March 2023, Governor Mark Gordon signed House Bill 74, creating the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Trust Fund. This fund is designed to grant financial support to outdoor recreation projects, with a focus on educating recreators, managing visitor flow to high-traffic areas, and developing sustainable landscapes for high-use.
The growth of Wyoming’s outdoor recreation economy is reflective of a national trend. The U.S. outdoor recreation economy has for the first time surpassed the trillion-dollar mark, reaching $1.1 trillion or 2.2% of the U.S. GDP. It also accounts for 3.2% of all U.S. employment, translating to 5 million jobs.
Wyoming’s outdoor recreation industry’s robust growth not only contributes significantly to the state’s economy but also enhances the quality of life for its residents. The state’s commitment to developing and promoting outdoor recreation is a testament to its understanding of the sector’s economic and social value.
As the outdoor recreation industry continues to expand, Wyoming’s strategic investments and initiatives position it as a leader in this sector. The state’s approach serves as a model for how outdoor recreation can be leveraged as a sustainable and vital economic driver.