Outdoor Industry Emerges as Top Economic Engine in Montana

New report shows that outdoor activities generate $7.1 billion in consumer spending

By Tristan Scott
An angler fishes the Middle Fork Flathead River. Beacon File Photo

Montana’s outdoor economy has joined the ranks of the state’s top-tier moneymakers, outpacing almost every other economic sector except for real estate and government, according to a new report by the Outdoor Industry Association.

Consumers who participate in activities like camping, fishing, skiing, boating, and biking add $7.1 billion to the state’s economy, according to the report, including $2.2 billion in wages and salaries from 71,000 direct jobs, as well as $286 million in state and local taxes.

“Our public lands are our birthright, our heritage, our great equalizer and so much more. Protecting our public lands is not only an investment in our economy but in our way of life,” Gov. Steve Bullock said after the report was published. “Outdoor recreationists know this is an investment that will pay off for generations to come, and together, we will always remain committed to keeping public lands in public hands for our kids and grandkids.”

Nationally, the report noted that Americans spend the most money on trail sports, dropping $201 billion annually on gear and other expenses, while camping ranked a close second, generating $166 billion in consumer spending. Water sports ranked third at $140 billion, followed by snow sports at $73 billion.

Conservation advocates said the report underscored the need to maintain the state’s public lands, and for Congress to adequately fund land management agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

“Montana’s economic well-being depends on it,” said Kayje Booker, policy director at the Montana Wilderness Association.

Kelsey Johnson | Flathead Beacon

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