Supporting Maine’s Outdoor Recreation Economy
Across the country, there is increasing recognition of the economic benefits of outdoor recreation. In February 2018, the federal government officially recognized outdoor recreation for the first time ever as a distinct sector of the U.S. economy. Preliminary figures from the Department of Commerce showed that outdoor recreation generates $373.7 billion annually, accounting for two percent of the U.S. GDP. Importantly, the study also highlighted that the economic benefits of outdoor recreation were growing at a faster rate than the overall economy.
These trends are particularly evident in Maine, where recent industry reports estimate that outdoor recreation generates $8.2 billion in consumer spending and supports 76,000 direct jobs.
Looking forward, there is an opportunity to further support outdoor access and outdoor recreation in Maine. By supporting the bipartisan programs and policies listed below, we can protect Mainers’ way of life - which is grounded in the outdoors - and bolster the state’s rural economies.
- Permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF was signed into law over 50 years ago and over that time has been the most successful land conservation and outdoor recreation program in the country. The program has delivered benefits to nearly every county across the entire country, increasing access to National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges and creating local parks and ballfields. Maine has received $182 million from the program, and that funding has been used to create local parks and improve iconic sites like Acadia National Park and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Unless Congress acts by September 30, 2018, this incredibly popular and successful program will expire.
- Continue to fund the Department of Commerce’s Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account. With continued Congressional support, the Department of Commerce can keep studying the economic benefits of outdoor recreation and ultimately will be able to take a closer look at regional data and trends in Maine. With better information about how outdoor recreation benefits specific local economies, Maine’s state legislature could improve state strategies to promote and increase access to Maine’s beautiful outdoors in order to attract new businesses, recruit talented employees, and boost visitor spending.
Supporting the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
On August 24, 2016, President Obama created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, protecting roughly 87,500 acres of Maine’s iconic North Woods.
The monument - a unit of the National Park System - is the product of a collaborative process that featured local input and historic levels of philanthropy that began over a decade ago. To facilitate the designation, Roxanne Quimby donated the land to the National Park Service along with a $20 million endowment and a pledge to raise an additional $20 million. This gift - an act of enormous foresight and generosity - is one of the largest in the 100-year history of the National Park Service.
It was a commonly held belief that in order for the monument to deliver as many benefits as possible, it must meet the needs and desires of the local community, including local elected officials, businesses, hunters, snowmobilers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. With that in mind, Lucas St Clair launched a locally driven effort in 2012 to solicit opinions and ideas from all stakeholders in the region. Lucas then used that input to develop or refine the specific details of the proposal. Until that process began, the idea of a monument or a park had been a polarizing issue. However, after years of Lucas’ leadership and the truly collaborative process that he developed, people and interests who had previously been on opposite ends of the debate started to come together and make compromises. Key to this progress were commitments that Lucas secured to support traditional access to the land, including hunting and snowmobiling east of the Penobscot River.
Another key to the establishment of the monument was its potential to help the region’s struggling economy. While no single action or proposal could turn the economy around on its own, studies suggested that a monument would provide a significant boost by increasing visitation and visitor spending and attracting new businesses and individuals to the region. Just one year after the monument’s designation, those economic benefits are already becoming clear. Numerous reports have shown that visitation to the region is up, businesses have expanded, and the real estate market has increased by roughly 100 percent.
Looking forward, there is the opportunity for this success story to continue. By continuing to work collaboratively with the local communities, as discussed in the action item below, we can ensure this monument keeps delivering new benefits to the region.
- Support management planning for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The first step in realizing the full potential of Maine’s new national monument is to work with local communities to develop the monument’s first management plan. This plan is critical for ensuring that the monument provides sufficient public access and infrastructure, celebrates the region’s culture, and protects the natural resources that make the North Woods so special.