November 2023


(Photo credit: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Outdoor Recreation Economy Has Record-Breaking Year

On Nov. 17, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, released national and state economic data showcasing the record-breaking year the outdoor recreation economy had in 2022. The release illustrates the continuous growth of the outdoor recreation industry, supporting jobs and local economies in communities across the country, bolstering the national economy, and providing many benefits to the increasing number of Americans who prioritize their time in the great outdoors.

The 2022 data revealed outdoor recreation generated $1.1 trillion in economic output, comprised 2.2% of the U.S. GDP and supported 5 million jobs — 3.2% of all employees in the country. In comparison to other industries by GDP, outdoor recreation (2.2%) surpassed mining (1.8%), computer electronic products (1.2%), and agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (1.1%). In terms of value-added, here is how other recreation activities fared:

  • Motorcycling/ATVing, $11.4B
  • Climbing, hiking, and tent camping, $5.6B
  • Other snow activities (including snowmobiling), $3.4B
  • Bicycling, $2.6B

“The strong data from BEA are in sync with our own sales numbers showing continued and immense consumer interest in outdoor recreation with powersports vehicles,” said Erik Pritchard, president & CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association. “In fact, our data show that dual-sport motorcycles, which can be used for on- and off-road recreation, have doubled in sales since 2016, and off-road motorcycle sales are on a significant growth trajectory. Having annual data from BEA will help legislators understand the significant economic impact that the outdoor recreation industry brings to our nation and why investments to protect and grow access to public lands and waters is essential to the health of America and Americans. It also proves that big dividends come from federal funding for programs like the Recreational Trails Program, which benefits motorized and non-motorized recreational interests for people of all abilities.”


The EXPLORE Act Introduced in the House

On Nov. 30, the House introduced the Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences (EXPLORE) Act. The EXPLORE Act is a comprehensive, bipartisan, and bicameral legislation that is championed by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman and Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva to improve access and transform outdoor recreation opportunities on our public lands and waters.

The long-awaited bill is the companion to the Senate’s America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) and is similar in structure, a comprehensive legislative package that combines several bipartisan and bicameral bills for the outdoor recreation industry. This broad-based legislation seeks to improve recreational opportunities across all federal land management agencies. It will help create additional opportunities for motorized and nonmotorized access to federal recreational lands, improve recreation infrastructure, support local communities, and bolster our nation’s economy.

“Outdoor recreation boosts the health of Americans, and access to public lands and trails is crucial for the millions of ATV, dirt bike, and side-by-side riders and drivers to enjoy the outdoors,” said Pritchard. “The nearly $50 billion powersports industry applauds the introduction of the EXPLORE Act, which would help create additional opportunities for motorized access to federal recreational lands, improve recreation infrastructure, support local communities, and bolster our nation’s economy. We thank Representatives Bruce Westerman and Raul Grijalva for their leadership with this legislation and urge swift bipartisan action to pass this act.”

Some of the key aspects of the EXPLORE Act include modernizing technology to improve visitor experiences, such as increasing broadband connectivity at recreation sites, creating digital recreation passes, and creating new pilot programs to monitor visitation; streamlining the permitting process and reducing burdensome fees for small businesses that depend on reliable access to public lands; reducing park overcrowding by creating new and innovative models to encourage public recreation in less-traveled areas; supporting gateway communities by addressing housing shortages, parking, and infrastructure issues, and challenges because of overcrowding, and the inclusion of the Military and Veterans in Parks Act (MVP Act), which promotes and enhances outdoor recreation opportunities for veterans and active service members. The MVP Act would help veterans’ physical and mental health, especially those with accessibility issues, by expanding and improving recreational and trail opportunities on federal lands.

Before the hearing, MIC, SVIA, ROHVA, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), and Nevada Outdoor School submitted a letter of support for the EXPLORE Act to Chairman Westerman and Ranking Member Grijalva. The House Natural Resources Committee will mark up the bill sometime in January 2024. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed AORA in July.



The Confluence of States Releases 2023 Outdoor Recreation Report

In early November, the Confluence of States (16 state offices of outdoor recreation from around the United States) released their 2023 Outdoor Report, which highlights their successes in outdoor recreation economy development in four categories: economic development, public health and wellness, education and workforce, and conservation and stewardship.

Among Confluence highlights for ARRA members is the work of the Michigan Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry, which in 2023 helped direct grants to Polaris and other outdoor companies through the new Mobility Public-Private Partnership & Programming (MP4) Grant. Additionally, in Michigan, this month, Innovation Marquette SmartZone and the Central Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Regional Commission received $320,000 to fund an electrified trails feasibility study, which will identify how the region can take advantage of the economic impacts related to future demand for electric power sports vehicles.


Recent Bureau of Land Management Activity

  • Las Vegas, Nev. — The BLM will temporarily close certain public lands under its administration in the Las Vegas Field Office on Dec. 2-3. The temporary closure is authorized annually for the two-day duration of the Legacy Battleground race until 2027 to minimize the risk of collisions between spectators and racers. The closure includes the Jean/Roach Dry Lakes Special Recreation Management Area. Hidden Valley borders it to the north, the McCullough Mountains to the east, the California state line to the south, and Nevada State Route 604 to the west. This area was closed to all vehicles and personnel except law enforcement, emergency vehicles, ticketed spectators, event personnel, and race participants.
  • Portland, Ore. — The BLM waived recreation day-use fees for visitors on Nov. 11 to celebrate Veterans Day. The BLM recognizes and honors our veterans’ contributions to our nation and invites visitors to explore the unique and diverse natural landscapes and visitor facilities found on America’s public lands. “Veterans contribute valuable expertise in caring for our cherished public lands,” said Barry Bushue, BLM Oregon and Washington State director. “I’m thrilled we honor and celebrate veterans nationwide with a fee-free day for all.”
  • Moab, Utah — The BLM Moab Field Office released a draft environmental assessment covering the Mud Springs Trail System for a 15-day public comment period. The proposal includes a 9.75-mile hand- and machine-built trail system located ¾ of a mile east of Highway 191, 12 miles south of Moab, along B Road 129 (Yellow Circle Road, 38.43003, -109.42161), with the proposed trail system located within the hills immediately to the east. The 2008 BLM Moab Field Office Resource Management Plan identified this area as the Upper Spanish Valley Mountain Bike Focus Area and calls for developing a beginner to intermediate-skill level mountain bike trail system.
  • Las Vegas, Nev. — The Las Vegas Field Office will temporarily close certain public lands under its administration Dec. 9-10. The closure will minimize the risk of potential collisions between racers and spectators during the 2023 SNORE Laughlin Rage at the River OHV Race.
  • Medford, Ore. — The BLM Butte Falls Field Office reopened the Upper Table Rock trailhead and trail on Nov. 10. The re-routes have been completed, and the new route will provide a more enjoyable experience for hikers. Upper Table Rock is now 1.5 miles one-way to the top, an increase of approximately 0.25 miles to avoid the steepest sections. The rerouted sections also lead to new vistas from the trail and pass by other unique trail features. Approximately 250 yards of gravel were placed along the trail to help reduce erosion and mud.
  • Safford, Ariz. – The BLM is seeking public comment on an environmental review for a proposed travel management plan covering 951,842 acres of BLM-managed public lands in the Gila-San Simon areas. The proposed plan would designate routes for motorized and non-motorized travel, establish maintenance guidelines, and identify use restrictions to protect resources and public safety. The proposal would maintain access for multiple uses, including off-highway vehicle use, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, bicycling, and camping. The 30-day public comment period began on Nov. 16 and closes on Dec. 16. Interested parties may view the StoryMap for an interactive map and an overview of the project, review the draft environmental assessment, and submit comments online. Comments can also be emailed to or mailed to BLM Safford Field Office, ATTN: Gila-San Simon TMP, 711 S. 14th Ave., Safford, AZ 85546.
  • Washington, D.C. – The BLM is taking public input on proposed updates to regulations for announcing temporary closures or restrictions on public land uses. The proposed changes are designed to better protect public lands, resources, and human health and safety. They will align BLM procedures with those of the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service. From time to time, BLM needs to issue orders to temporarily close or restrict the use of public lands to protect people, property, public lands, and resources or to avoid conflict among users. If adopted, the rule changes would remove the requirement to publish temporary closure and restriction orders in the Federal Register and instead direct BLM to use modern communications tools, such as social media, to notify the public of temporary closures or restrictions. BLM already uses similar techniques to communicate information about fire prevention orders and during wildland fires, when actions, including closures and restrictions, are necessary to protect life, property, safety, and resources.