Oregon economy benefits from ‘quiet’ recreation

Study: Nonmotorized activities on BLM land generates $185 million

By Stephen Hamway / The Bulletin / Published Apr 7, 2016

Horse Ridge Recreation Area, Photo Courtesy of BLM

Horse Ridge Recreation Area, Photo Courtesy of BLM

Oregon received about $185 million in direct spending in 2014 from nonmotorized recreation on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, according to a recent national study. 

The study, “Quiet Recreation on BLM-Managed Lands: Economic Contribution 2014,” measured the economic impact of “quiet recreation,” or recreation that doesn’t involve significant use of motorized equipment such as all-terrain vehicles. Instead, the study focused on the value of activities, such as hiking, fishing and shooting. 

Those activities typically fly under the radar, and few studies have attempted to gauge their specific economic impact, according to Dan Morse, conservation director for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, a nonprofit based in Bend. 

“People might think there’s not an economic benefit to a hiker or a birdwatcher, but this study shows that’s not the case,” Morse said. 

According to the study, visitors to BLM lands who were engaged in quiet recreation spent around $1.8 billion in 2014 across the 12 Western states where the agency owns a significant amount of land. In Oregon, the bureau owns 15.7 million acres, the majority of which is east of the Cascades. 

The study was commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts and completed by the Portland-based consulting group ECONorthwest. Oregon was ranked a close second behind California out of the 12 states examined for the number of visits, 4.9 million, devoted to quiet recreation on BLM land. That figure represented 65 percent of the 7.5 million total visits to BLM-owned land in Oregon. 

Across the 12 states, quiet recreation represented 63 percent of all visits. 

Additionally, those visits to BLM lands in Oregon contributed approximately $185 million in direct spending within 50 miles of recreation sites, which was good for fifth among the 12 states examined. The visits supported 2,322 local jobs, based on the study. 

According to Kristin Lee, project director for ECONorthwest, The Pew Charitable Trusts reached out in 2014 with an interest in learning more about the specific impacts of quiet recreation on Western land. Lee said the bureau collects visitor-submitted data on visitor activities. 

Teague Hatfield, owner of FootZone in Bend, said Central Oregon businesses that are oriented toward the outdoors benefit from the region’s proximity to public land. 

“We’re a business that’s dependent on people being able to get out and move,” Hatfield said. “And obviously, public land is where most of the trails are.” 

In part because of its proximity to outdoor recreation opportunities, Central Oregon has become a hub for outdoor-product companies in the state. Economic Development for Central Oregon selected outdoor products as one its key industries to support in the state in 2015, and listed 86 businesses in the category in the region in October. 

“I think well-managed public lands are one of the great things about living in the Western United States,” Hatfield said. 

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com