Data Shows Increasing Visitors to Public Land While Recreation Funding Declines

Over the last fifteen years, outdoor recreation visits have steadily increased, yet over the same time period, real funding for recreation has decreased at our parks and public lands. Led by Outdoor Alliance, 34 outdoor recreation organizations and businesses have joined together to ask Congress to fully fund outdoor recreation budgets at land management agencies like the Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Adequate funding, dictated by Congress, is of utmost importance for maintaining trails, campgrounds, and roads, which in turn contribute to communities and the sport of mountain biking as a whole.

The Outdoor Alliance has made it easy to write lawmakers about it:

Additionally, please click here for more information.

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Outdoor Alliance data shows increasing visitors to public land while recreation funding declines

Outdoor Recreation Organizations, Businesses Call on Congress to Sufficiently Fund Recreation on Public Lands.

Washington, D.C. (May 16, 2024) — The number of visitors to America’s public lands has steadily increased over the last 15 years, while over the same time period funding for recreation has decreased more than 20 percent at agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, according to data released this week by Outdoor Alliance, a non-profit working to protect public lands and waters.

Led by Outdoor Alliance, 34 outdoor recreation organizations and businesses have called on lawmakers to fully fund recreation budgets at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They have asked Congress to fund BLM’s Recreation Resources Management program at $100 million and the Forest Service’s Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness at $70 million, with additional funding for staffing — increases that will return these agencies to more sustainable funding levels from Congress in the past.

The BLM has seen a 25 percent reduction in appropriations for Recreation Resources Management adjusted for inflation since 2006. Over a similar time period, visits to BLM lands have increased 46 percent. At the Forest Service, funding for Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness decreased 23 percent between 2010 and 2020, accounting for inflation, while
recreational visits increased 17 percent.

“Outdoor recreation is a significant economic driver in local communities, and a lack of adequate funding threatens the outdoor economy as well as our outdoor experiences,” said Adam Cramer, CEO of Outdoor Alliance.

Outdoor Alliance has previously focused on the fact that inadequate funding is one of the biggest obstacles to protecting public land.

“The process of appropriations is both complex and incredibly important, and voters have a key role to play in asking lawmakers to fully fund the budget items they care about,” Cramer said. “We have made it easy to ask your lawmakers to fund recreation on our public lands and waters.” Nationally, outdoor recreation contributed $1.1 trillion to America’s economy in 2022, accounting for 2.2% of GDP. Recreation on BLM lands contributed $11.1 billion to the economy and 73,000
jobs in 2022 while spending by visitors to national forests and grasslands contributes about $13.7 billion to the US economy and sustains about 161,000 full-and part-time jobs.

“While our public lands are receiving record visitation, overall funding is decreasing and staffing is at historic lows. It is critical that Congress follow the American public’s lead and turn its attention to our nation’s lands and make this necessary investment,” said Kent Ebersole, President of Outdoor Industry Association. “These investments not only improve the visitor experience but also help provide opportunities to inspire the next generation of recreationists and conservationists to protect our natural spaces.”

Persistent funding shortfalls affect outdoor recreation experiences and degrade public lands and waters, according to Cramer. Without adequate funding, public lands see greater maintenance issues, trail erosion, trash, and parking problems. Funding shortages even make it more difficult for volunteer groups to work on trail maintenance and other stewardship activities because of a lack of capacity at the agencies.

“At REI Co-op we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well-lived. By investing in our public lands, Congress is not only ensuring access to quality recreation opportunities, but also supporting local economies, and the mental and physical health benefits of a life outside,” said Taldi Harrison, Director of Community and Government Affairs, REI Co-op.

Investing in outdoor recreation programs at the BLM and the Forest Service will help maintain economic growth and benefits to local communities, and provide a return to taxpayers, Cramer said.

“As we see more people experiencing nature through recreation, especially through running, we recognize the need to advocate for the federal resources required to care for these living landscapes,” said Kathleen Baker, Executive Director, of Runners for Public Lands, one of the groups encouraging more recreation funding and the largest human-powered recreation group in the country. “Increasing funding to BLM and USFS for recreational maintenance and staffing will
help provide some of the overdue care these lands need and will contribute to ensuring access to the trails and pathways of some of our country’s most treasured recreation areas.”

In the past decade, public lands have benefitted from historic investments, including the Great American Outdoors Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. Both the BLM and the Forest Service are putting these funds to use through a wide range of projects, including deferred maintenance.

“While these funds are significant, they cannot be a substitute for regular appropriations. In fact, the shortage of regular appropriations is, in part, what necessitated funds like the Great American Outdoors Act,” Cramer said. “If Congress invests in recreation programs at both the BLM and the Forest Service, it will ensure that funding is quickly put into action to benefit the American public.”

Along with Outdoor Alliance, the other organizations calling on lawmakers to fully fund recreation budgets include the American Alpine Club, American Hiking Society, American Mountain Guides Association, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Back Country Horsemen of America, California Mountain Biking Coalition, Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association, Conservation Lands Foundation, International Mountain Bicycling
Association, Latino Outdoors, Lowelifes Respectable Citizens’ Club, The Mountaineers, National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance, NEMO Equipment, Inc., Next 100 Coalition, Outdoor Industry Association, Pacific Crest Trail Association, Partnership for the National Trails System, Peak Design, PeopleForBikes, Public Land Solutions, REI Co-op, Runners for Public Lands, Sage Trail Alliance, Sierra Business Council, Smith River Alliance, Surfrider Foundation, Vertical Supply
Group/Sterling, Washington Trails Association, The Wilderness Society and Winter Wildlands Alliance.

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About Outdoor Alliance

Outdoor Alliance is the only organization in the U.S. that unites the voices of outdoor enthusiasts to conserve public lands. A nonprofit coalition comprised of 10 national advocacy organizations, Outdoor Alliance’s members include American Whitewater, the American Canoe Association, Access Fund, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Mountaineers, the American Alpine Club, the Mazamas, the Colorado Mountain Club, and the Surfrider Foundation. By working with its member coalitions and helping mobilize the involvement of individuals to protect public lands and waters, OA helps ensure public lands are managed in a way that embraces the human-powered experience. Outdoor Alliance — conservation powered by outdoor recreation. Learn more at



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