(Public News Service) ELLENSBURG, Wash. - Having fun outdoors is serious business in the state of Washington.
A new report from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) shows that recreation is responsible for 227,000 jobs in Washington, $7 billion in wages and $1.6 billion dollars in state and local taxes.
The report also tallies $22 billion in consumer spending for outdoor gear and clothing, guide services and travel expenses.
For Kittitas County, which is 65 percent public land, County Commissioner Paul Jewell says he's seen an economic transformation in the northern part of the county, formerly home to coal mines and timber mills.
"We have the only master-planned resort in all of Washington state, right there in that portion of our county," he says. "You've got winter sports recreation - it's known as kind of the mecca of Washington state for snowmobiling. You have fishing, hiking. You know, we've known for a long time how important it is to our economy."
Even the Yakima Basic Integrated Plan to improve the watershed in the region includes a recreation component, adds Jewell.
Peter Dykstra, Pacific Northwest regional director of The Wilderness Society, says folks may not think of recreation as an industry because they see it as a hobby. But more people are working so that others can play outdoors.
"The reason this is important information for land conservation is, they're not making any more land and we need to protect it," he says. "And by doing so, we create the one thing we do need more of and can create more of, which is more jobs."
Washington ranks sixth in the nation for outdoor industry employment. In addition to attracting tourists from around the world, the OIA report says at least 63 percent of Washingtonians also participate in some form of outdoor recreation.