Outdoor Recreation: A Key Driver for New Hampshire’s Economy

The Granite State is a year-round paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Our mountains, trails, and waterways offer locals and tourists endless opportunities for outdoor recreation activities, whether it is skiing, hiking, boating, and fishing, and more. These activities yield significant economic benefits at the national, state, and local levels, as confirmed by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis’ latest report on the outdoor recreation economy.

The report indicates that outdoor recreation continues to gain momentum as a key economic driver of the U.S. economy, generating $689 billion in economic output, while supporting 4.3 million jobs, or 3 percent of America’s employment in 2020. In New Hampshire, traditional outdoor recreation activities – driven by recreational boating and fishing – accounts for 2.6 percent of the state’s GDP, supporting over 26,000 jobs and $1.1 billion in wages.

The economic activity generated by outdoor recreation in New Hampshire is a testament to our state’s ability to capitalize on the natural resources we have that so many utilize for sports and entertainment. This is thanks to private companies collaborating with state agencies to ensure that all who participate in outdoor recreation have a safe and memorable experience in the Granite State.

These continued partnerships, most notably the New Hampshire Office of Outdoor Industry Development (ORID), support the state’s diverse outdoor economy and connect its world class outdoor assets to broad economic development strategies. Serving as New Hampshire’s first director is Scott Crowder. Under his leadership, the ORID has partnered with the newly formed Granite Outdoor Alliance, and other outdoor industry stakeholders, whose mission is to advance the outdoor industry toward a sustainable and responsible future by focusing on land conservation, economic development, education, and health and wellness.

In line with ORID, we at the New Hampshire Marine Trades Association (NHMTA)  and the Lakes Region Tourism Association, believe all have a responsibility to protect the public lands and waterways that have become paramount to the health of outdoor recreation businesses. We work collaboratively to promote boating safety and assist in developing boater education and safety awareness. As a statewide organization proudly serving the public’s boating needs, NHMTA members have seen firsthand how having fun on the water positively impacts the community’s health and wellness, and also how revenue generated from the boating community greatly impacts our economy.

Additionally, we must continue collaborating with federal, state, and local policymakers to fully utilize existing programs and funding streams. For decades, the recreational boating and fishing community has worked closely with Congress to modernize and the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (Trust Fund) – a user-pay, user-benefit system that helps ensure future generations can enjoy our natural resources and time on the water.   Today, the Trust Fund collects millions of dollars each year and is the largest source of funding for marine conservation. In 2021, New Hampshire received more than $4 million from the Trust Fund, which will go to an array of boating access, conservation, and safety projects in the Granite State.  Funding collected through vessel registration is critical in supporting Marine Patrol and other environmental waterway protection programs. 

When the New Hampshire General Court opens its 2022 session, legislators should continue to take a balanced approach to protecting our natural resources and managing increasingly popular outdoor recreation opportunities. Our outdoor recreational economy will continue its growth trajectory if policymakers continue to prioritize partnerships and education that can and will replace the need for burdensome regulations.

Peter MacCallum is President of New Hampshire Marine Trades Association and owner of MacCallum’s Boathouse, Inc.    Amy Landers is the Executive Director of the Lakes Region Tourism Association.