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Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State

Key Message

Residents and visitors to Washington State spend about $21.6 billion per year on outdoor recreation trips and equipment.


Briceno, T., Schundler, G. (2015). Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State. Tacoma, WA: Earth Economics. xi + 100 pp.


The purpose of this study is to quantify and qualify the economic characteristics of outdoor recreation in Washington State. We investigate the magnitude and distribution of economic contributions, economic impacts, and ecosystem services based on geography, demography, and recreational behaviors. Expenditures and contributions are calculated for different public and private land types, participant types, and recreational activities. Results are presented at the state level, by county, and by legislative district. The distribution of outdoor recreation economic activity is presented in the context of regional economies, recreational land ownership, and recreational behavior preferences.


The results from the economic analyses conducted illustrate how diverse and far-reaching the recreation economy is in Washington State. Every year millions of people spend at least $21.6 billion dollars associated with outdoor recreation in Washington. After accounting for leakages of spending on items not produced in Washington, these expenditures generate about $20.5 billion in economic contributions through Washington State. Of that $20.5 billion contribution, $4.6 billion is flowing into the economy from outof-state visitors coming to enjoy Washington’s outdoor recreational lands.
The way in which outdoor-recreation related expenditures trickle down through different types of economic contributions is analyzed in detail in this report. In addition to the monetary contribution of outdoor recreation to Washington's economy, there are a number of other benefits not accounted for within traditional economic analysis. These benefits include the satisfaction and increase in general quality of life people get from engaging in outdoor recreation and from the ecosystem services recreational lands provide. Trees, water, and animals provide ecosystem goods and services such as swimmable water, habitat, and aesthetic beauty. Washington’s 23 million acres of public land provide many of these benefits. The combined total estimated value of these nonmarket benefits is between $134 billion and $248 billion a year.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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