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Mountain West Senators Push For Outdoor Recreation Spending To Boost Economy

Hikers make their way to the top of Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
Hikers make their way to the top of Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

As the pandemic wears on, leaders across the country are looking at how to economically recover after the COVID-19 pandemic. Some in the Mountain West are calling for more outdoor recreation spending.

In a letter to Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Nev. Sen. Jacky Rosen called for future recovery legislation to include support for the outdoor recreation industry. She claims investments could create three million jobs in the near-term, particularly in areas facing high unemployment, comparing it to the Civilian Conservation Corps, created as a public jobs program during the Great Depression.

Michael Taylor is a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno. He explained that during economic downturns, there is a large pool of labor available to work — at a lower cost than during good times.

“In times of recession when there is unemployment, you have this excess capacity, you have this valuable resource that’s not being employed productively. So, those costs of doing these projects [are] correspondingly going to be smaller,” he said.

Taylor said investing in the outdoors also helps support rural economies that depend on agriculture, and help federal land management agencies lower their costs.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the outdoor recreation industry added more than $29 billion of economic value to the region in 2017 alone.

“This is an excellent time to make these conservation investments,” Taylor added.

Rosen’s letter was signed by 11 additional senators, including Colo. Sen. Michael Bennet and Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich from N.M.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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