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Springfield, MO

Opinion: Great outdoors revs economic engine

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Editor’s note: This column is Rep. Billy Long’s most recent weekly report from Washington, D.C.

The Energy and Commerce Committee recently held a hearing on the economic impact of the great outdoors. It’s a growing industry nationwide, and Missouri is no different. Outdoor recreation is a multibillion-dollar industry that significantly impacts Missouri’s economy.

A 2012 economic impact study commissioned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources showed that money spent by state park visitors supported over 14,500 jobs and provided more than $120 million in federal, state and local taxes.

There are 56 state parks in Missouri that attract 18 million visitors annually to hike, camp, fish or any number of other activities facilitated by our park services. Table Rock State Park is one of those parks and a premier destination spot in southwest Missouri. The total number of visitors to Table Rock increased by 17 percent between 2015 and 2016. One of my favorite activities to participate in is fishing. Whether it is for bass, crappie or catfish, a day on Table Rock Lake is always a good day.

Fishing alone supports over 1,000 Missouri jobs and 800,000 nationally. In Missouri’s 7th Congressional District, there are over 170,000 people who participate in recreational fishing. A 2011 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service study showed people who fish spent over $650 million annually on fishing-related items in Missouri. It's just one example of how our pastimes affect our bottom line.

Fishing is not the only outdoor activity Missourians like participating in. Hunting is another great pastime in Missouri. There are 538 conservation areas that over 470,000 hunters are able to use for all different types of hunting. The same U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service study showed that hunters spent over $900 million annually on hunting-related items in Missouri.

The positive impacts are endless, and it is important that this is reflected in national economic data. Last year, Congress passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act, which requires outdoor recreation to be part of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product measurements. It also requires the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture to produce an annual report on the economic impacts outdoor recreation has on the U.S. economy. The report requirement will allow members of Congress to properly analyze issues regarding outdoor recreation.

Missouri provides numerous outdoor activities for its residents. I will continue to work hard to make sure that my colleagues and I give this subject the attention it deserves. There are countless positive impacts the great outdoors has on our economy.

Congressman Billy Long represents the 7th District of Missouri. He can be reached at (202) 225-6536 in Washington, D.C., and at (417) 889-1800 in Springfield.

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