Recreational Expenditures - History

Recreational Expenditures - History

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American Living Standards: Evidence from Recreational Expenditures

I use consumer expenditure surveys from 1888-1890, 1917-1919, 1935-1936, 1972-1973, and 1991 to determine whether trends in real income per capita are consistent with trends in recreational budget shares and to establish trends in inequality in recreational expenditures. I find that changes in real total expenditures per capita are likely to underestimate the increase in living standards, particularly during times of innovation in consumer goods and reductions in hours such as in the 1920s and the 1970s and 1980s. Real per capita total expenditures fell by 1.2 percent per year between 1919 and 1935 and rose by 1.8 percent per year between 1972 and 1991. In contrast, trends in recreational expenditure shares imply that between 1919 and 1935 real per capita total expenditures rose by 1.2 percent per year and between 1972 and 1991 by 3.6 percent per year. The bias in conventional measures of per capita real total expenditures may therefore have been 2.4 percentage points per year between 1919 and 1935 and 1.8 percentage points per year between 1972 and 1991. I also find that lower income households experienced a larger increase in living standards than higher income households, perhaps because of decreases in the work hours of lower relative to higher income workers, technological change that lowered the price of recreational goods and created new products that increased demand for recreation, and increased public provision of recreational goods.

Why We Conduct the Survey

Timely economic data, important to both NOAA Fisheries and the saltwater angling community, is needed to:

  1. Evaluate the economic importance of the recreational fishing industry.
  2. Evaluate the economic effects of fishing regulations, as well as changes in the ecosystem caused by natural or man-made events.

The survey is designed to estimate the amount of money spent by anglers on saltwater fishing trips and fishing-related equipment. Information collected will provide a better understanding of the economic impacts generated from saltwater recreational fishing across the U.S. and contribute to more informed decisions on recreational fishing issues.


RECREATION AND LEISURE. Leisure being a relative luxury in a pioneer community such as early Cleveland, recreation was largely an impromptu, catch-as-catch-can activity. The average national workday of 11 hours no doubt was even higher for many in the frontier milieu of the WESTERN RESERVE. Nevertheless, practically the entire population took a break on 4 July 1801 for the town's first recorded social event, a "grand Ball" given in LORENZO CARTER's cabin. Thirteen years later, a similar gathering in the cabin of the Rev. Stephen Peet featured dramatic readings and dialogues. According to one local historian, popular recreational activities for adults in the 1830s included picnics, berry-picking socials, and square dances, while children played such games as marbles, shinny, and pom-pom pullaway. The entire community gathered together for corn-huskings, house-raisings, and wood-chopping contests.

As the village of Cleveland grew into the city of Cleveland, individuals began to organize for recreational purposes. Sharpshooting was a practical skill as well as a recreational outlet, and a Nimrod Assn. was formed in 1830 to engage in target practice and trial hunts. Lectures became an indoors fixture, with a Cleveland Forum organized the same year to debate such questions as "Is Love a Stronger Passion than Hatred?" and "Ought the U.S. to Lay a Tax on Unmarried Men Over the Age of Thirty Years?" Naturalist JARED P. KIRTLAND presided over the first meeting of the Cleveland Horticultural Society, which was called to order in 1844. Sabbath observance was largely a matter of individual conscience while some complained that saloons conducted a land-office business on Sundays, the first attempt to publish a Sunday newspaper failed in 1857 (see CLEVELAND DAILY REVIEW). Local government remained largely neutral on the Sunday question and a prohibitive tax on theaters was repealed shortly after its passage in 1854. In 1857 the city fenced in PUBLIC SQUARE to provide a central park, but business opposition forced its reopening to through traffic a decade later (see FENCE WAR OF PUBLIC SQUARE).

Industrial growth during the CIVIL WAR brought great fortunes to the city's business leaders and propelled the overall population beyond a quarter million by 1890. The wealthy classes found recreational outlets in the "sport of kings," patronizing the GLENVILLE RACE TRACK as early as 1870. During the winters the "first families" attracted spectators into the thousands to witness their sleighing races down the appropriately named "Millionaires' Row" of EUCLID AVE. GOLF was introduced to Cleveland by industrialist SAMUEL MATHER in 1895, though the city's most famous golf course was the private one laid out by JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER ca. 1900 at his FOREST HILL estate.

Recreational outlets for the working classes also increased as the average national working day fell to 10 hrs. by 1888. BASEBALL arrived in 1865 with the formation of the FOREST CITY BASEBALL CLUB, which turned professional 4 years later. The annual Case-Reserve FOOTBALL classic was begun in 1891 only 4 years after the local introduction of the sport on the scholastic level. Commercial recreational facilities gained in importance, best exemplified by the AMUSEMENT PARKS that sprang up at the ends of trolley lines. EUCLID BEACH opened on the east side in 1895 while PURITAS SPRINGS PARK began attracting west siders in 1898. For winter diversion, there were skating rinks such as the ELYSIUM, and the first movie theaters came along in 1903. Clevelanders continued to organize clubs to promote recreational activities such as the Cleveland Camera Club (1887 see CLEVELAND PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY) and the GARFIELD-PERRY STAMP CLUB (1890). The "Mother of all Cleveland Women's Clubs," the CLEVELAND SOROSIS SOCIETY, was launched in 1891 to study such topics as "Cultivation of Repose and Grace by Means of Relaxation."

The increase of leisure time brought down the last barriers of Sabbatarianism. GORDON PARK hosted its first Sunday concert in 1897 while Sunday professional baseball was legalized in Ohio in 1911, a year after a game in Cleveland had been halted by police to the jeers of 5,000 fans. Concern grew on the part of social agencies toward promoting "wholesome" recreational activities. The YOUNG WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSN. opened the first girls' gym in 1895. Social SETTLEMENT HOUSES such as HIRAM HOUSE also appeared in the 1890s to offer recreational activities, along with educational programs for their largely immigrant, working-class constituencies. Government continued to lag behind commercial and philanthropic forces in providing recreational outlets for Cleveland's citizens prior to the 1900s. Although a Board of Park Commissioners was created in 1871 (see PARKS), it did not have a significant park to oversee until WADE PARK was acquired in 1882 a zoo was established there in 1889. During the 1890s, the system was expanded by the addition of Gordon Park on the east side, EDGEWATER PARK on the west side, and BROOKSIDE PARK on the south.

Public recreational activities were greatly accelerated during the Progressive Era administration of Mayor TOM L. JOHNSON (1901-09). "The opening of the parks to their owners—the people—the removal of restrictive signs and the establishment of outdoor sports have given the people an opportunity to play," asserted Johnson's election literature in 1909. It estimated park attendance during the previous year at 2 million, including 100,000 bathers at Gordon and Edgewater and 187,000 children at summer playgrounds. Among other park activities enumerated were 4,000 baseball games on the 64 city diamonds and 85 band concerts. Not even rowboat rentals were ignored by the populist administration, which cut the rate on park lakes from 25 to 15 cents. Johnson's successor, Mayor NEWTON D. BAKER, emulated his mentor's famous 3-cent streetcar fare slogan by opening 2 municipal dance halls in the parks at a charge of 3 cents a dance, against the going rate of a nickel. The period cumulated with the creation of the city's Division of Recreation in 1916 and the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District in 1917 (see CLEVELAND METROPARKS).

Under the auspices of the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION, a survey of the city's recreational needs was conducted during WORLD WAR I. Citing the fact that juvenile delinquency during the previous decade had increased at more than twice the rate of population growth, the authors saw great dangers lurking for youth in the city's gullies, railroad yards, and unimproved lakefront, where truants were susceptible to the baleful influence of hoboes. "It is clearly wrong to expect boys and girls to keep from delinquency if they do not see how they are to fill up their spare hours with wholesome activities that seem to them worthwhile," observed one authority. Not even the leisure activity of a select group of "wholesome citizens" were entirely satisfactory to the conductors of the survey. The Clevelanders listed their favorite spare-time pursuits as: 1) reading, 2) entertaining, 3) theater, 4) visiting, 5) movies, and 6) walking or hiking—although motoring was already in 9th place. What bothered the authorities was the "deadly dullness" of adult past-times, particularly in their lack of individuality and physical activity. "The day of individualistic, laissez-faire methods has gone, in play as in industry," concluded a survey author. "The work of the expert in play is superseding isolated home direction, just as the home has been displaced in education by institutional organization."

One of these modern experts was John H. Gourley, later eulogized as "the man who taught Cleveland to play." A former Milwaukee teacher and city athletic director, he was brought to Cleveland in 1923 by the Community Fund (see UNITED WAY SERVICES) to serve as assoc. director of the Cleveland Recreational Council. That was the year steelworkers won an 8 hr. day, heralding the 44 or 48 hr. week for most workers. Leisure had become the heritage of the common man, as Gourley was named Cleveland Recreation Commissioner by City Manager WILLIAM R. HOPKINS from 1928-32. He built the Cleveland Amateur Baseball and Athletic Assn. (see SANDLOT BASEBALL) up to 20,000 participants and instituted Class F baseball for younger boys. He was also praised for bringing Cleveland's nationality groups into the recreation program.

Two massive public works projects between the world wars signaled the commitment of local government to the promotion of recreational activities. Though built primarily to attract convention business, PUBLIC AUDITORIUM also attracted Clevelanders to such annual events as the Sportsman's Show (see AMERICAN AND CANADIAN SPORT, TRAVEL, AND OUTDOOR SHOW) and the GREATER CLEVELAND HOME AND FLOWER SHOW. Even more grandiose in conception was CLEVELAND MUNICIPAL STADIUM, completed in 1931, which became the home for diverse mass attractions ranging from professional baseball (see CLEVELAND INDIANS) to grand opera (see STADIUM OPERA CO.). "Although it was considered a part of the GROUP PLAN, such a building had not been dreamed of in 1903, when recreation was still a relatively private and small-scale activity," wrote architecture historian ERIC JOHANNESEN. Due to the Depression, leisure in the 1930s was only too abundantly available as the national work week dipped below 39 hrs. Unfortunately, annual expenditures for the city's recreation division also fell, from over $300,000 in 1928 to less than $200,000 in 1933. Some of the slack was soon taken up by the New Deal's WORKS PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION, which used unemployed workers to staff more than half the city's and 80% of the suburban recreation programs.

Following WORLD WAR II, the city's Division of Recreation more than recovered lost ground. John S. Nagy began a 40 yr. tenure as Commissioner of Recreation in 1943, and beginning in 1946 the city's recreational activities were coordinated with those of the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS under a Joint Recreation Board. One of Nagy's precepts was a refusal to hire anyone with an IQ of 140 or more, on the grounds that they soon became bored with the work. According to a report issued in 1948, the program had provided 371,864 total hours of supervised recreation. Among its facilities were 150 playgrounds, 18 gymnasiums, 11 pools, 77 tennis courts, a Traveling Zoo, and a Showagon. With a total attendance of 2.25 million, the sandlot baseball program had outdrawn the Cleveland Indians in 1947.

Some of these gains were lost in the urban decline of the 1960s. The program's year-round employees fell from 593 in 1969 to 134 in 1971. Though the division's physical inventory looked impressive on paper, said a PLAIN DEALER reporter, "The trouble is [the facilities] are not open when they should be, are staffed by too few persons and even those employees are not necessarily trained for their jobs." Commissioner Nagy, widely known as "Mr. Recreation," was credited with keeping parts of the program going through his ability to secure donations. Nevertheless, the Division of Recreation in the 1990s was able to report a total of 559 regular and seasonal employees operating on an annual budget of $9.6 million. The city still numbered 16 recreation centers, 41 indoor and outdoor pools, and 100 playgrounds among its recreational assets. Cleveland's SUBURBS had also developed some impressive recreational facilities and programs from CAIN PARK in CLEVELAND HTS. to a nationally recognized program in BROOKLYN.

Individual and commercial recreational activities also made a comeback in the postwar era. These ranged from the passive perusal of TELEVISION to the almost frenzied activity of the physical fitness craze. Jogging was popular enough by 1976 to support a chain of 4 jogging specialty shops in Greater Cleveland and the country's first public Nautilus weightlifting center opened that year in ROCKY RIVER. Most of the old amusement parks were long gone, but major regional theme parks were within an hour's drive at Cedar Point and Sea World. While the work week had not declined significantly from its postwar average of slightly over 40 hrs., Cleveland launched 2 large-scale capital investments in the 1990s to attract the leisure spending of both natives and visitors. In what may be the wave of the future, the Gateway (see GATEWAY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORP.) sports complex and Inner Harbor (see NORTH COAST HARBOR, INC.) museum complex represent a partnership of public and private funding.

Rebuilding Red Snapper: What have fishery managers and fishermen done to rebuild red snapper?

In the late 1980s, NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council) began implementing various regulations to reduce fishing mortality and rebuild the red snapper population.

In addition to limiting the total number of fish that could be harvested annually, commercial and recreational fishermen were restricted by limiting the number of licenses issued (in the commercial and for-hire fleets only), limiting the number of fish they could retain on a given fishing trip, restricting the size of fish they could retain and the type of gear they could use, and limiting when they could fish.

Shrimp fishermen were required to install devices in their trawl nets to reduce bycatch of juvenile red snapper. These measures led to small, gradual improvements in the status of red snapper over a 15-year time period (1989-2004), but were not sufficient to end overfishing or make sufficient progress in rebuilding the population. By 2005, red snapper spawning biomass had increased to only 4.7%, well below the target level of 26%.

In 2005, managers began developing a new plan to rebuild red snapper. At that time, regulations were designed to end overfishing of red snapper by 2009 or 2010. In 2007, the recreational and commercial quotas were lowered by 45% from 9.12 million pounds in 2006 to 5.0 million pounds by 2008, the recreational bag limit was reduced from five to two fish per person to slow the rate of harvest, and the commercial minimum size limit was reduced to minimize discard mortality. Furthermore, an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program was implemented for the commercial sector.

The rebuilding plan also established a shrimp trawl fishing effort threshold to minimize the amount of juvenile red snapper caught in shrimp trawls between depths of 60-180 feet in the Western Gulf. That threshold was designed to constrain effort to 74% less than observed during 2001-2003. In 2011, the threshold was changed to 67% less than the 2001-2003 effort. Shrimp fishing effort has remained below the threshold since 2007. If shrimp effort increases in the future, then rebuilding measures require fishery managers to close some areas in the Western Gulf to shrimp trawling to limit effort in areas of high juvenile red snapper abundance.

The rebuilding plan is working. The 2009 update assessment indicated red snapper abundance was increasing and less fish were being removed due to fishing. The 2013 assessment indicated the stock was still rebuilding, although it remained overfished, and catch levels could be increased. The 2015 update assessment indicated that spawning biomass tripled from 2005 to 2013, but the stock remained overfished. The 2018 assessment determined the stock was no longer overfished but more rebuilding is needed. The 2018 spawning stock biomass was 20%, still below the target level of 26%.

Recreational Expenditures - History

A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem of the United States

A Study of the Park and Recreation Problem of the United States

Yosemite National Park, California


Local Governments. In 1565, when the city of St. Augustine in Florida was laid out, provision was made for open spaces for the enjoyment of the public. In 1573, shortly before the town was moved to its present location, the King of Spain set forth certain regulations for the laying out of towns in foreign colonies, containing the following provisions which applied to St. Augustine:

The (main) plaza shall be of oblong form inasmuch as this is best for fiestas in which horses are used and for any other fiestas that shall be held. . . . A commons shall be assigned to the town of such size that although the town continues to grow, there may always be sufficient space for the people to go for recreation. . . .

As the country grew, various cities continued this policy of providing open spaces within their corporate limits. As the years went by the wisdom of this early provision became more evident, and with the demand of the public for a more diversified use of such spaces our municipal park and playground systems have developed and increased appropriations for such purposes have been made. In 1930 municipalities and counties provided approximately $140,000,000 for their park and recreation systems. In common with expenditures for other services of local governments this figure was substantially decreased during the recent economic emergency until in 1935 it represented about half that amount. Since 1935, however, expenditure for this purpose has been steadily increasing.

State Governments. When the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1641 decreed by ordinance that great ponds—bodies of water over 10 acres in extent—be forever open to the public for fishing and fowling, recognition was given to the fact that provision for recreation beyond the corporate limits of cities should be made by the larger units of government. Further attention to such provision was given by the State of California in 1865 and by New York, Minnesota, and Connecticut in the 1880's and at that time these States began providing funds for State park purposes.

Previous to 1934 only nine States had provided annual appropriations in any considerable amount for State park and related work. These included Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Rhode Island (Table A). South Dakota had provided adequately for Custer State Park but had not developed a State-wide system. Since 1933 California, Massachusetts, Washington, Missouri, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, and New Jersey have improved their financing to the extent that they may be listed as fairly well financed systems.

TABLE A. Expenditures for State parks, fiscal year, 1933㬞

StateAgency 1 1933-34
California Division of Parks, Department of Natural Resources$l50,000.00
Connecticut Division of Parks, State Park and Forest Commission269,017.00
Florida Board of Forestry12,500.00
Idaho Department of Public Works 3 2,293.32
Illinois Division of Parks and Memorials, Department of Public Works and Buildings291,466.00
Indiana Division of Lands and Waters, Department of Conservation67,800.00
Iowa Division of Lands and Waters, Department of Conservation110,000.00
Kansas Forestry, Fish, and Game Commission44,767.92
Kentucky Division of Parks, Department of Conservation22,500.00
Massachusetts Division of Parks and Recreation, Department of Conservation40,068.78
Michigan State Parks Division, Conservation Commission84,124.28
Minnesota Division of State Parks, Department of Conservation40,600.00
Missouri State Game and Fish Department 4 85,236.07
Nebraska State Game, Forestation, and Parks Commission18,425.00
New Hampshire Forestry and Recreation Commission10,884.52
New Jersey Department of Conservation and Development(5)
New Mexico
New York Division of Parks, Conservation Department4,197,529.23
North Carolina
North Dakota State Historical Society300.00
Ohio Division of Conservation, Department of Agriculture72,851.89
Oregon State Highway Department, Champoeg Memorial Park25,000.00
Pennsylvania Bureau of Parks, Department of Forests and Waters114,750.00
Rhode Island Division of Forests, Parks and Parkways, Department of Agriculture and Conservation117,093.19
South Carolina
South Dakota
Utah State Board of Park Commissioners500.00
Vermont Department of Conservation and Development2,000.00
Virginia Division of State Parks, Conservation Commission 6 50,000.00
Washington State Parks Committee15,000,00
West Virginia Department of Conservation70,000.00
Wisconsin State Conservation Commission25,752.09
Wyoming State Board of Charities and Reform 7 8,780.00
1 The name given is that of the agency administering the areas for which the expenditures were made in 1933-34.

3 Heyburn State park only.

4 Reported as State park expenditures but used mostly for fish and game program.

6 Special for land acquisition.

7 Hot springs and Saratoga Hot Springs State parks only.

Twenty-one States have made their first specific appropriations to State park agencies responsible for the development of State-wide systems, since 1932. Of these Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia have made beginnings which augur well for the future.

A great impetus to the expansion of State park work came with the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps by Executive Order in April 1933. Through this agency nearly $300,000,000 has been expended on work performed under the technical supervision of the National Park Service on State, county, and metropolitan parks, which has caused the States to establish various types of administrative organizations, acquire new areas, assist in development and provide budgets for the operation and use of the parks.

Federal Government. 1 The Federal Government recognized the preservation of scenery and its use for recreation of one kind or another when it turned the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove over to California to be a State park. It recognized these objectives again in 1872 when it created Yellowstone National Park subsequently when it created additional national parks and again in 1916 when Congress authorized the creation of the National Park Service. Financial support of the Service's activities has steadily increased in 1929 it amounted to $4,524,647, while in 1938 it was $14,395,930.

The United States Forest Service has been evincing an increasing interest in recreation in connection with the national forests as evidenced by the growth in expenditures for the administration of recreation from $65,028 in 1929 to $588,892 in 1938, the most rapid increase occurring in the past four years.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, in carrying out its major functions of improving navigation and providing for flood control and the generation of electric power, has created valuable recreational resources in the form of extensive lakes and, in addition, has developed parks and freeways. Through 1938 the Authority expended $184,490 on development of these areas (in addition to Civilian Conservation Corps expenditures) and $98,610 on maintenance and operation.

Likewise, in the work of the Bureau of Reclamation of the Department of the Interior, construction projects such as Boulder Dam have created important recreational resources the cost of which is allocated to other purposes. The recreational features in connection with the Boulder Dam area are now under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Similarly, the War Department, through its navigation and flood control projects, has added materially to the recreational resources of the country.

The Work Projects Administration has expended large sums for the development of recreational facilities as well as for the organization and conduct of recreational programs. To January 1, 1939, $681,319,000 was spent by this agency on parks and other recreational facilities (exclusive of buildings) and on recreational activities. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration spent $124,763,840 for recreational facilities and approximately $8,894,000 on recreational leadership. Comparable classifications of project expenditures under the Civil Works Program are not available. The largest proportion of WPA, CWA, and FERA funds was expended on local areas and a similar proportion of CCC funds was spent on State areas.

The Public Works Administration expended $2,668,166 on Federal recreational projects, loaned $7,997,700 to States and local communities, and made grants of $7,302,799 to such government units for recreational development.

How We Pay to Play: Funding Outdoor Recreation on Public Lands in the 21st Century

The recreational demands of the 21st century are bringing new challenges for public land management. This PERC Public Lands Report examines some of the primary sources of funding for outdoor recreation-related opportunities on public lands, aiming to be informative rather than claiming to be exhaustive or comprehensive. It demonstrates that by many measures, inflation-adjusted recreation-related funding is stagnant or declining despite increased attention on and demand for outdoor recreation.

As public lands that provide outdoor recreation opportunities grow in importance, it’s worthwhile to examine how we fund and maintain those lands. Adequate funding will not in and of itself guarantee responsible stewardship of our public recreation lands. But recent trends suggest that many sources of recreation funds have either stagnated or declined in real terms, even as visitation has been increasing over the long term. An assessment of recreation-related funding sources and their trends can provide insights about different funding strategies and, ideally, help inform and improve the future of recreation on public lands.


Outdoor recreation is on the rise. Nearly half of all Americans recreate outdoors, and the sector is becoming more important on various fronts, whether socially, economically, or politically. A recent assessment by the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that outdoor recreation accounted for $412 billion of GDP in 2016—or 2.2 percent of the entire U.S. economy. [1] The bureau estimated that the sector has grown faster than the overall national economy in three of the four years that it has analyzed. [2]

The participation rate in outdoor recreation has been consistent over the past decade. The Outdoor Foundation reports that 49 percent of Americans ages 6 and up participated in an outdoor recreation activity in 2017. [3] Given population growth, the absolute number of Americans recreating outdoors has been on the rise, increasing from about 136 million participants a decade ago to 146 million in 2017. Some of the most popular activities today include running, fishing, cycling, hiking, and camping. In all, Americans go on nearly 11 billion recreation outings each year.

Public lands are the backdrop for much of that recreation. The Outdoor Industry Association calls public lands and waterways “the backbone of our outdoor recreation economy.” [4] From national forests and wildlife refuges to national parks and wild and scenic rivers, some of the most prized landscapes and destinations in the country are found on public lands. National and state parks combined to host more than 1 billion visits last year. And local ball fields, recreation facilities, and public parks provide numerous weekend and after-school recreation opportunities across the nation.

The recreational demands of the 21st century are bringing new challenges for public land management. This PERC Public Lands Report examines some of the primary sources of funding for outdoor recreation-related opportunities on public lands, aiming to be informative rather than claiming to be exhaustive or comprehensive. [5] It demonstrates that by many measures, inflation-adjusted recreation-related funding is stagnant or declining despite increased attention on and demand for outdoor recreation.

While the focus of this Public Lands Report is recreation funding, much public spending on the broader category of natural resources benefits and enhances the provision of recreational amenities. For instance, spending to improve wildlife habitat could be justified by and aimed at achieving certain conservation outcomes, yet such spending could result in more and better wildlife for sportsmen and other recreationists to enjoy. This report, therefore, examines sources of funding that relate to recreation generally, including some that support habitat restoration, wildlife management, and other conservation aims that are linked to recreation.

As public lands that provide outdoor recreation opportunities grow in importance, it’s worthwhile to examine the way that we fund and maintain those lands. An assessment of those funding sources and their recent trends can provide insights about different funding strategies and, ideally, help inform and improve the future of recreation on public lands.

Spending on Natural Resources, Environment, and Recreation

The Office of Management and Budget’s breakdown of the federal budget into functions and subfunctions provides a snapshot of all federal spending. Function 300 concerns all programs relating to natural resources and the environment, which includes spending on environmental protection and enhancement, recreation and wildlife areas, and the development and management of land, water, and mineral resources owned by the U.S. government. [6]

In real terms, spending under Function 300 has more than doubled since 1962, albeit with periods of volatility. Spending under the budget function was approximately $13 billion in 1962 in real terms and had risen to $40 billion by 2018.

Over time, however, that spending has represented a smaller and smaller share of total federal spending. Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, when the overall federal budget was significantly smaller than it is today, Function 300 accounted for roughly 2 percent of all federal spending. Today, the function accounts for less than 1 percent of all federal outlays—about $40 billion of a $4 trillion budget.

Within Function 300, Subfunction 303 covers federal outlays on recreational resources. The subfunction encompasses spending toward acquiring, operating, and improving recreational lands and facilities managing fish, wildlife, and parks and preserving historic areas. [7] In real terms, spending under Subfunction 303 has risen from approximately $800 million in 1962 to nearly $4 billion in 2018. As a share of overall spending, however, the subfunction comprises just 0.09 percent of the entire federal budget today, down from 0.12 percent in 1962. [8]

Federal Land Management Agencies

Most federal spending on recreation is channeled through four of the major land management agencies. Three are housed in the Interior Department: the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Forest Service is housed within the Department of Agriculture. [9]

National Park Service

The National Park Service manages roughly 80 million acres of federal lands across 419 park units, a figure that includes the country’s 61 national parks as well as hundreds of sites within the system that have other classifications, such as national monuments and national preserves. [10] Established in 1916, the mission of the National Park Service is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” [11] In 2000, the agency updated that mission, tweaking the language to accept “the validity of outdoor recreation,” a change that reflects the growing importance of recreation in the 21st century. [12]

That growth is reflected in the historical trend in visitation across the National Park System. Park visitation has increased more than fourfold since 1960, when national parks and other agency-managed units received 72 million visits. [13] More recently, after nearly three decades of relatively flat visitation that began in the late 1980s, visits to the park system have surged since 2013, increasing by 16 percent in just five years. The uptick is likely due to various factors, including the park service’s centennial celebration in 2016 as well as the rise of outdoor recreation generally. In 2016 and 2017, systemwide visitation reached all-time highs of nearly 331 million visits, before falling to 318 million visits in 2018. Even with the overall decline last year, 28 individual sites set new visitation records. [14]

Despite the upward trend in visitation, discretionary appropriations to the National Park Service have essentially remained flat in real terms for more than a decade. Excluding a funding spike in 2009 that was driven by an increase in federal spending in the wake of the Great Recession, the agency’s appropriations have steadily hovered around $3 billion.

The story is largely the same when it comes to the portion of parks appropriations devoted to maintenance. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, from 2006 to 2015 the park service received about $1 billion each year for maintenance projects—about one-third of the agency’s appropriations. [16] This funding has not been sufficient to keep up with the maintenance needs of aging park assets and infrastructure, a factor that has contributed to the nearly $12 billion of deferred maintenance that has accumulated across the agency’s 419 units. [17]

In terms of asset types, paved roads account for more than half of the maintenance backlog. About 40 percent of paved roads in national parks are considered to be in “poor” or “fair” condition. [18] While the recreational access provided by roads is a crucial part of the park experience for a majority of visitors, improvements to roads and bridges in parks have historically been funded through the Department of Transportation, not the National Park Service. [19]

The system of trails across national parks, on the other hand, is a recreational asset whose maintenance responsibilities fall squarely to the National Park Service. Hiking trails are arguably the archetype of human-powered recreation. And throughout the national park system, thousands of miles of trails are rated as “poor” or “seriously deficient.” [20] The breakdown of deferred maintenance shows that across all parks nearly half a billion dollars is required for trail repairs alone.

A look at the 10 most visited parks in the country gives a sense of the magnitude of the challenge facing many sites. Three out of the 10 parks have trail maintenance backlogs that exceed the amount of funding they received in discretionary appropriations last year, meaning that even if those parks devoted all of their appropriations to trails projects, they still would not fully address their trail maintenance needs. In fact, the combined trails maintenance backlog for the 10 most popular parks would equal 79 percent of their combined appropriations. [21] The story is much the same for other recreation-related assets within the National Park System, including visitor centers, historic buildings, water and wastewater systems, and employee housing. Clearly, national parks are facing enormous and daunting maintenance challenges.

Forest Service

The Forest Service manages more than 190 million acres of land for multiple uses such as timber management, livestock grazing, wildlife and fish habitat, and recreation. [22] National forests provide ample outdoor recreation opportunities, from hiking, biking, and horseback riding to hunting, dirt biking, and camping. The Forest Service manages approximately 30,000 developed recreation sites nationwide. [23] The agency faces a deferred maintenance backlog of its own of nearly $5.5 billion, including $279 million in unfunded trail repairs. [24]

According to visitor surveys conducted by the agency, visitation to national forests has remained relatively steady over the past decade. In 2016, there were an estimated 148 million recreation visits to national forests. [25]

The main Forest Service account that covers recreation spending is the agency’s Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness account. The agency calls recreation “the single greatest use” of national forest lands, and expenditures from the account support various activities, including visitor center and campground operations as well as management of permits for ski areas, marinas, and lodges. [26] Appropriations to the account have been falling gradually in recent years, decreasing by 23 percent since 2001, after adjusting for inflation. The agency received $258 million in appropriations to the account in 2018—less than its trail maintenance backlog and equivalent to approximately $1.74 per recreation visit. [27]

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management is the nation’s largest landlord, managing nearly 250 million acres of federal land. [28] While grazing, timber, and conservation are important management responsibilities for the agency, recreation falls under its multiple-use mandate as well. The agency’s deferred maintenance backlog has grown by 65 percent over the past decade in real terms and is currently estimated at $810 million. Approximately three-quarters of the agency’s deferred maintenance consists of roads, bridges, and trails. [29]

Bureau of Land Management sites offer ample recreation opportunities, including hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, climbing, visiting cultural and historic sites, off-road vehicle driving, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and more. The agency’s 4,000 recreation sites receive approximately 67 million visits annually, an increase of about 30 percent since 2001. [30]

After adjusting for inflation, appropriations to the agency for recreation management have fallen by 16 percent since 2001. Appropriations for recreation management totaled $73 million in 2018, or roughly $1.09 per recreation visit. [31]

Fish and Wildlife Service

The Fish and Wildlife Service manages nearly 90 million acres of federal lands. Its primary mission is to conserve plants and animals, although other uses, including recreation, are permitted so long as they do not interfere with the primary mission. [32] The agency manages 460 wildlife refuges that are open to the public. [33] It reports a deferred maintenance backlog of $1.4 billion, a decrease of nearly 60 percent in real terms over the previous decade. “Other structures” and “buildings” combine to account for a little more than half of the agency’s backlog. [34]

The most prominent recreation component administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service is the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Its goal is to “conserve and manage fish and wildlife and their habitats for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations.” [35] The federal program disburses funds to states through grants, which carry out various conservation- and recreation-related activities with the funds. Those activities include habitat management and restoration, hunter education and safety, improvement of fishing and hunting access, and wildlife population management. [36]

The Wildlife Restoration Program was created in 1937 by the Wildlife Restoration Act, more commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, which established federal excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment for the purpose of funding state-level conservation programs. The Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950, also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, established a similar fishing-related program. Its funding comes from excise taxes on fishing tackle and equipment and boat fuel. Both programs apportion funds to states using a formula that takes into account the number of paid license holders, and in general, funding from the programs require a state match, which is primarily funded through hunting and fishing license sales.

Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson have a long track record of funding conservation and recreation projects. The federal excise taxes distributed by the Fish and Wildlife Department are crucial sources of funding for state fish and wildlife agencies. In 2018, the two programs combined to apportion more than $1.1 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies. [37] For more detail on the historical trends of these funds, see the State Fish and Wildlife Agencies section of this report.

Fee Revenues and Donations

There are a handful of other sources of recreation funding that do not come from congressional appropriations but are nonetheless important for several federal land agencies. The first is recreation fees. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act allows certain agencies, including the National Park Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management, to charge and collect recreation fees on federal lands and waters, either for entrance to a site or for use of an amenity such as a developed campground. [38] Sites that collect fees can retain and spend 80 percent of their receipts without further appropriation. Over the past decade, total revenues collected by federal agencies under FLREA have increased by 42 percent in real terms—from $284 million in 2009 to $404 million in 2018—and virtually all of that increase has occurred over the past five years.

The vast majority of fee receipts come from national park units, about one-quarter of which charge entrance fees. In 2018, the National Park Service accounted for 74 percent of all FLREA receipts. The Forest Service collected 17 percent of the total. [39]

Franchise fees from concessionaires are another meaningful source of funding for certain recreation sites. Federal agencies, particularly the National Park Service and the Forest Service, outsource certain operations to private concessionaires in exchange for fees. Lodges, gift shops, and campgrounds are examples of facilities commonly operated by concessionaires. In 2018, the National Park Service generated approximately $126 million from concessions fees. [40]

Private donations are another source of funds that can help accomplish beneficial recreation projects on public lands. The nonprofit Yellowstone Forever, for example, granted $5.9 million to Yellowstone National Park in 2018 for more than 50 projects, including fish restoration efforts, trailhead displays, and black bear research. [41] And in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a partnership with local philanthropic organizations has yielded $500,000 in donations that fund rehabilitation of many of the most popular and highest-priority trails in the park. [42] In 2018, donations to the National Park Service totaled $47 million. [43]

While these sources of funding are important, they’re a relatively small portion of the federal funds that provide recreation opportunities across public lands. In 2018, fees, concessions, and donations combined to account for approximately $475 million, or about 11 percent of the National Park Service’s total budget authority. [44]

Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a significant source of conservation and recreation funding since Congress established it in 1965. The program was created “to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreation facilities to strengthen the health of U.S. citizens.” [45] The fund is authorized to accrue up to $900 million annually, but the spending is not mandatory. Congress must approve any LWCF spending each year through the appropriations process. Virtually all funding for the program comes from revenue derived from offshore oil and gas leases.

Historically, the LWCF has been used for three purposes: land acquisition by federal land management agencies for outdoor recreation, grants made to states for outdoor recreation purposes, and so-called “other purposes,” which includes special requests for funding made by presidents since 1998. Since the act’s inception, the state-grants program has been a significant source of funding for state and local recreation, whether by providing means to repair or build trails on state lands, funding construction or renovations at local parks and sports facilities, or supporting other recreation-related projects. The level of annual spending approved by Congress each year under the fund has fluctuated greatly over time.

As part of a broad public lands legislation package, Congress permanently reauthorized the LWCF in 2019. The legislation did not mandate any funding under the LWCF, meaning that Congress will continue to use the annual appropriations process to approve spending under the fund. The bill did specify that for future spending approved under the program, at least 40 percent must be allocated for federal purposes and at least 40 percent must go to states. [46]

Adjusting program funding for inflation over its history shows a significant decline in real terms since the peaks of the late 1970s, representing less bang for the buck going to conservation and recreation over time. Likewise, in recent decades state grants have taken a back seat to federal land acquisition and, since 1998, to the broad “other purposes” category. In fact, states have received just 13 percent of LWCF allocations since 1998.

While the spending power of the LWCF has declined significantly over the long run due to inflation, the amount of spending actually approved by Congress has also proved to be relatively unpredictable year to year. In recent years, Congress has approved LWCF spending at roughly half of its $900 million annual accrual level. The LWCF’s unpredictable track record reflects the uncertainty of the political process inherent to congressional appropriations decisions.

State Conservation and Recreation Funding

States also provide a significant portion of government funding that supports recreation opportunities, much of which overlaps with spending on conservation. State parks and state fish and wildlife agencies are two of the most important entities devoted to recreation at the state level. In addition, some states have begun to establish dedicated offices of recreation in recent years.

State Parks

While national parks garner many headlines and feature some of the most famous landmarks and sites in the country, state parks outnumber national park units by a factor of 20 and provide countless recreation opportunities. From Florida to Alaska, more than 8,500 state park areas offer virtually any and all types of recreation, including hiking and camping, skiing, golfing, kayaking and swimming, picnicking, and simply enjoying the outdoors. [47]

After a dip in visitation around the time of the Great Recession, state parks have seen attendance grow steadily in recent years. In 2017, about 807 million people visited state parks nationwide—nearly twice as many visits as to federal parks and forests combined. The trend in operating expenditures over the past decade, however, has been a steady decline, falling from more than $3.0 billion in 2008 to about $2.5 billion today. [48]

Operating expenditures include spending on all goods and services that go toward managing a state park system, meaning it can serve as a rough proxy for the amount of funding available to run parks. While there’s wide variation in the way that state park systems are funded across the country—with some extremely dependent on state general funds and others completely funded by park users—the roughly 17 percent decrease in expenditures over the past decade is evidence that funding is being squeezed in many states. [49] The upshot is that many state park systems face the same challenge as national parks—having to serve more visitors with less funding.

State Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The collective budgets of state fish and wildlife agencies total roughly $5.6 billion. These agencies manage land, habitat, and wildlife within states. Nearly 60 percent of their funding comes from sources related to hunting and fishing, and the largest portion is revenue from state hunting and fishing licenses, which combine to equal about $1.6 billion. [50]

Collectively, these agencies’ second-largest source of funding is revenue from federal excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, fishing tackle, and related items. These funds are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Wildlife Restoration Program and the Sport Fish Restoration Program, created by the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts, respectively. In 2018, the two programs combined provided more than $1.1 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies. [51] The excise tax revenues collected by the federal government are distributed based on a formula that takes into account the number of paid license holders in a state, and generally, grants under the program require states to match federal funding at a ratio of one to three. [52]

The reliance on hunting and fishing for state funding has become cause for concern given long-term trends of those activities. The share of the adult population that are hunters peaked around 1960 at about 11 percent. That participation rate had fallen to 4 percent by 2016, or about 11 million hunters, a decrease of more than 2 million hunters over the previous five years. When it comes to fishing, participation peaked in 1975 at about 24 percent of the adult population. That rate had fallen to 14 percent by 2016, or about 36 million anglers. [53]

These declines in participation have thus far not been reflected in the relatively stable streams of revenue that come from state hunting and fishing licenses. Similarly, revenues from the excise taxes established by Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson have either remained stable or increased in recent years.

It’s possible that states have become more adept at pricing hunting and fishing licenses in ways that have maintained agency revenues—such as charging more for out-of-state licenses and tags. [54] Population growth also helps offset the decline in participation rates, making it easier for states to maintain—if not grow—their license revenues. When it comes to Pittman-Robertson and funding for the Wildlife Restoration Program, it seems plausible that recent increases have been driven largely by activities not necessarily related to hunting, including growth in handgun sales, target shooting, and gun collecting. [55] Regardless, anecdotal evidence from state agencies suggests that long-term declines in hunting and fishing have become cause for concern given the significant amount of funding historically derived from hunters and anglers. [56]

State Recreation Offices

In recent years, more and more states have sought to establish dedicated recreation offices separate from other state agencies. [57] These fledgling offices have been created in part to champion the benefits that stem from the outdoor recreation economy as well as to drive the legislative agenda of recreation interests. Relatedly, some states have tried to implement mechanisms to secure dedicated funding for recreation, whether by redirecting sales taxes on sportings goods, channeling a portion of lottery proceeds, or tapping into real estate tax revenues. [58] These strategies have had mixed success and, in many cases, still must prove their staying power—especially where they were enabled by statutes that require annual legislative appropriations—but there’s no doubt that new sources of funding dedicated to recreation would be a boon for many states.

The Future of Recreation Funding

The sources of funding covered in this report provide an overview of federal and state resources devoted to outdoor recreation on public lands. Together, they also illuminate some of the current and future challenges of funding outdoor recreation at local, state, and federal levels.

Recent trends suggest that much of the recreation funding available to federal land management agencies has either stagnated or declined in real terms, even as visitation to many federal lands has been increasing over the long term. As a result, funding shortfalls for maintenance and other needs are substantial and growing. The Land and Water Conservation Fund remains a significant source of funds for federal- and state-level recreation projects, yet its funding levels have proven to be unpredictable year-to-year. Trends in hunting and fishing participation suggest concern for the future of funding sources tied to those activities.

Comparing the long-term trends of three funding streams reveals several important truths about historical recreation funding. After adjusting for inflation, state revenues from hunting and fishing licenses have proven to be remarkably stable over time. State licenses have not only been a significant source of funding for more than half a century, but as a point of comparison, the roughly $1.6 billion in revenue that they yielded in 2018 was also nearly four times larger than the $425 million appropriated from the Land and Water Conservation Fund last year.

Likewise, state funding derived from federal excise taxes on equipment for hunting, shooting, fishing, and boating have proven relatively consistent and substantial as well. These sources provided more than $1.1 billion to states in 2018.

By contrast, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has proven to be a much less stable funding source. It’s clear that the fund today is yielding much less conservation and recreation—at least as measured by level of inflation-adjusted funding—than it has over much of its history. In fiscal year 1980, for instance, $509 million was appropriated under the LWCF, or roughly 17 percent more than the $425 million that was appropriated in 2018. Yet in real terms, the 1980 appropriation had more than three times the purchasing power of the 2018 one—roughly $1.3 billion compared to $425 million. [59] Clearly, the LWCF was getting a lot more bang for its conservation and recreation buck in past decades. By contrast, revenues from licenses and excise taxes are steady or even growing in real terms.

Furthermore, the ups and downs of the LWCF record even over recent decades could be interpreted as par for the course given the way the program was constructed. The uncertainty and partisanship inherent to the congressional appropriations process means that the federal and state agencies that partially rely on the fund never know how much will be approved from year to year. The funding ultimately depends on factors almost wholly unrelated to outdoor recreation, like the overall political climate, partisan priorities for government spending, and who happens to be in the White House or chair the House Natural Resources Committee.

There’s an undeniable contrast between the historical record of funding from the LWCF and the two state sources that are either directly or indirectly tied to user demand for recreation. State license revenues and proceeds from federal excise taxes have proven much more reliable and significant sources of funding over time. Furthermore, the fact that these sources are tied to recreationists helps ensure that the funds promote responsible stewardship of the public lands that serve as some of our greatest recreation assets. The incentive structure created by such funding mechanisms has clear advantages. The funds are dedicated to conservation and recreation and therefore, unlike many other public revenues, cannot be siphoned away to the U.S. Treasury and diverted to other purposes. The programs also have a clear constituency, and the accounts have proven resistant to being raided for other purposes.

The good news for Americans who enjoy recreating on public lands is that demand for outdoor recreation is healthy and potentially growing. If the enthusiasm for enjoying public lands can be better channeled into user-funded mechanisms that support the maintenance and improvement of them, then outdoor recreationists of all stripes would have much to gain.

A note on charts and data sources:

Unless otherwise noted, government spending figures within this report are for fiscal years and are adjusted for inflation using the GDP Chained Price Index from the White House Office of Management and Budget, Historical Tables, Table 10.1, “Gross Domestic Product and Deflators Used in the Historical Tables.”

[3] “Outdoor Participation Report 2018.” Outdoor Industry Association. July 17, 2018.

[5] The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that gross spending on outdoor recreation by all levels of government exceeded $42 billion in 2016. State and local governments accounted for nearly $38 billion, or 90 percent of total spending. Clearly, states and local communities have taken the lead in meeting their recreational demands, which often occurs through ballot initiatives. “Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account: Updated Statistics for 2012-2016.” Bureau of Economic Analysis. September 20, 2018.

[6] For more background, see “Focus on Function 300: Natural Resources and Environment.” House Budget Committee Democratic Staff. January 31, 2018.

[8] Historically, Subfunction 303 has accounted for the smallest portion of Function 300. The other subfunctions include Water Resources (301), Conservation and Land Management (302), Pollution Control and Abatement (304), and Other Natural Resources (306). “Discretionary Budget Authority by Subfunction: An Overview.” Congressional Research Service Report R41726. December 16, 2016.

[9] The Bureau of Reclamation, also housed within the Interior Department, provides many recreation opportunities as well, although its mission to “manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public” is less focused on recreation than the four federal agencies examined in this report. Reclamation oversees 187 developed recreation sites that receive 24 million visits annually. The majority of those sites are managed by either concessionaires or another federal agency. For more background, see Bureau of Reclamation: Recreation Overview. Accessed April 8, 2019.

[10] “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data.” Congressional Research Service Report R42346. March 3, 2017.

[13] Over the same period, the U.S. population grew by approximately 80 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The number of park units that report visitation grew by 128 percent over that period, increasing from 166 units to 379 units. National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics.

[15] Discretionary appropriations data come from National Park Service Budget Justifications. Maintenance appropriations data come from the Government Accountability Office report, “National Park Service: Process Exists for Prioritizing Asset Maintenance Decisions, But Evaluation Could Improve Efforts.” Adjustments for inflation for appropriations use the GDP Chained Price Index. Deferred maintenance estimates are compiled from National Park Service Asset Inventories, Congressional Research Service reports, and Government Accountability Office reports. For fiscal years in which a range of estimates are reported for deferred maintenance, the average is used. Adjustments for inflation for deferred maintenance use annual indexes from the Bureau of Economic Analysis Table 3.9.4, “Price Indexes for Government Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment,” for nondefense structures.

[16] Deferred maintenance is defined as maintenance of assets “that was not performed when it should have been and is delayed for a future period.” Park units that are over 40 years old account for more than 90 percent of the deferred maintenance backlog. In 2009, an additional $750 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was devoted to maintenance in parks. For more, see “National Park Service: Process Exists for Prioritizing Asset Maintenance Decisions, But Evaluation Could Improve Efforts.” Government Accountability Office. December 2016.

[17] “NPS Asset Inventory Summary,” Fiscal Year 2018. National Park Service. September 30, 2018. Many factors affect the amount of deferred maintenance reported over time, including funding levels, economic conditions, and estimation methodology. As the Congressional Research Service notes: “Methods for assessing the condition of assets and estimating deferred maintenance have changed over the past decade. As a result, it is unclear what portion of the change in deferred maintenance estimates is due to the addition of maintenance work that was not done on time and what portion may be due to changes in methods of assessing and estimating deferred maintenance.” “Deferred Maintenance of Federal Land Management Agencies: FY2007-FY2016 Estimates and Issues,” p. 8. Congressional Research Service Report R43997. April 25, 2017.

[19] The Congressional Research Service notes that “road and bridge improvements are largely funded by allocations from the Department of Transportation.” “National Park Service Appropriations: Ten-Year Trends,” p. 7. Congressional Research Service Report R42757. July 10, 2018.

[21] While one figure is an annual flow (annual discretionary appropriations) and the other is a stock accumulated over years (trails deferred maintenance), the comparison provides a sense of the magnitude of repairs needed across the park system. “NPS Asset Inventory Summary by Park,” Fiscal Year 2018. National Park Service. September 30, 2018.

[22] “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data.” Congressional Research Service Report R42346. March 3, 2017.

[24] “Forest Service Deferred Maintenance.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General. May 2017.

[26] “Budget Justification FY2020,” p. 58. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness.

[27] “Budget Justification FY2020.” Forest Service: Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness.

[28] “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data.” Congressional Research Service Report R42346. March 3, 2017.

[30] “Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act: Overview and Issues.” Congressional Research Service Report IF10151. October 31, 2018 “Public Land Statistics 2017.” Bureau of Land Management. June 2018.

[31] “Budget Justification FY2020.” Bureau of Land Management: Recreation Management.

[32] “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data.” Congressional Research Service Report R42346. March 3, 2017.

[35] Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Accessed April 8, 2019.

[37] “Secretary Zinke Announces More Than $1.1 Billion for Sportsmen & Conservation.” U.S. Department of the Interior. March 20, 2018. For data on funding for the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, see Apportionments/Funding Index, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Accessed April 8, 2019.

[42] Trails Forever Program. National Park Service: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Accessed April 8, 2019.

[44] Includes both discretionary and mandatory budget authority. Total budget authority in FY2018 was $4.165 billion. “National Park Service: Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Justifications,” p. Overview-2 and p. Overview-32.

[47] State Park Facts. National Association of State Park Directors. Accessed April 8, 2019.

[48] Figures are in 2016 dollars and come from “2017 Outlook Letter.” Jordan W. Smith and Yu-Fai Leung. National Association of State Park Directors.

[49] The logic is that state park systems are not voluntarily spending less on operations over time, rather, the decrease in operating expenditures is due to budget constraints. There is ample anecdotal evidence from states to support the idea that park budgets have been squeezed in recent years and that some parks have looked to become more financially self-sufficient as a result. On recent trends, see: “The State of State Parks: After Years of Budget Shortfalls, Some States Renewing Commitment to Funding Parks.” Lisa McKinney, Council of State Governments. March 28, 2016 “State Parks Find New Ways to Save, Make Money.” Rebecca Beitsch, Pew Charitable Trusts. April 14, 2016 “Struggling State Parks Seek New Ways to Survive.” Mike Maciag, Governing. December 2016 and “The Fight for Funding in America’s State Parks.” Serge Fedorowsky, Earth Island Journal. March 1, 2017. For more on state parks and self-sufficiency, see “State Parks’ Progress Toward Self-Sufficiency.” Holly Fretwell and Kimberly Frost, Property and Environment Research Center. October 2006, and “Funding Parks: Political versus Private Choices.” Holly Fretwell, Property and Environment Research Center. August 2011.

[50] For background on funding for state fish and wildlife agencies, see “The State Conservation Machine.” Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. 2017. For data on state revenue from hunting and fishing licenses, see Historical License Data, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Accessed April 8, 2019.

[51] “Secretary Zinke Announces More Than $1.1 Billion for Sportsmen & Conservation.” U.S. Department of the Interior. March 20, 2018. For data on funding for the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, see Apportionments/Funding Index, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Accessed April 8, 2019.

[54] For instance, in 2018, NPR reported: “Many states have increased license fees for out-of-state hunters to compensate for the decrease in license sales …” “Decline in Hunters Threatens How U.S. Pays for Conservation.” Nathan Rott, NPR. March 20, 2018.

[55] Pittman-Robertson data show a clear increase in receipts over the past decade, including receipts from handguns. “Guns, Excise Taxes, Wildlife Restoration, and the National Firearms Act.” Congressional Research Service Report R45123. March 5, 2018.

[56] For example, see the “Conclusions” section of “The State Conservation Machine.” Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. 2017.

[59] In 2018 dollars, adjusted for inflation using the GDP Chained Price Index.

Pacific Largest Share, New England Smallest

The Pacific region, with 48 percent of the U.S. ocean shoreline, had the largest number of participants, days involved, and ocean recreation-related spending. Nearly 14 million participants spent 382 million days engaged in an ocean activity and spent over $39 billion on durable and trip-related goods and services. The Mid-Atlantic region, with 12 percent of the nation’s ocean coastline, was second in the number of ocean recreation participants, with over 10 million people enjoying the region’s coastline.

The New England region had the smallest regional share with 5.6 million ocean recreation participants spending 135 million days and $11 billion along New England’s coast, which is about 7 percent of the U.S. ocean shoreline.


Resource managers consider the entire ecosystem, including humans and natural elements, when making management decisions. By analyzing critical fishery management issues like the economic performance of catch share programs, marine spatial management options, and protected species bycatch reduction strategies, we are able to provide resource managers with additional information to make informed decisions when managing marine ecosystems, thus, helping to ensure the sustainability of marine resources.

Economic impact of U.S. commercial, recreational fishing remains strong

Today, NOAA released the 11th Fisheries Economics of the United States report which provides the most up-to-date economic statistics on commercial and recreational fisheries as well as seafood-related businesses for each coastal state and the nation.

&ldquoIn 2016, commercial and recreational saltwater fishing in the United States generated more than $212 billion in sales and contributed $100 billion to the country&rsquos gross domestic product,&rdquo said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. &ldquoThese critical industries supported 1.7 million jobs in communities across the country.&rdquo

A key piece of the latest report is the jobs, sales, income, and value added to the Gross Domestic Product by the fishing and seafood industries. This provides a measure of how sales from commercial and recreational fishing ripple through state and national economies as each dollar spent generates additional economic effects.

In a single year, economic impacts from recreational fishing grew across the board. Nationally, 9.8 million saltwater anglers took recreational fishing trips in 2016 &mdash a 9 percent increase in anglers from 2015. Saltwater recreational fishing supported 472,000 jobs, generated $68 billion in sales impacts across the economy, and contributed $39 billion to the GDP, all metrics that increased 7 percent from 2015 measurements.

The commercial fishing and seafood industry &mdash harvesters, processors, dealers, wholesalers, and retailers &mdash supported 1.2 million jobs in 2016, generating $144 billion in sales impacts and adding $61 billion to the GDP. The domestic harvest produced $53 billion in sales, up 2 percent from 2015, and supported 711,000 jobs across the entire American economy. Sea scallops had the largest revenue increase in 2016, bringing in $46 million in landings revenue. The domestic lobster industry also performed well, with a $43 million increase in revenue, primarily from the harvest of lobster off the coast of Maine and New England.

&ldquoThis report illustrates the depth and breadth of fishing and seafood&rsquos contribution to our country&rsquos economy,&rdquo said Chris Oliver, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. &ldquoFrom sustainably harvesting America&rsquos seafood to casting a line in our coastal waters, the economic impacts of commercial and recreational fishing provide a boon to each and every American community.&rdquo


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