Wisconsin relies on diverse outdoor recreation activities which bring in billions of dollars throughout all four seasons.
A report by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation shows how important outdoor recreation is for the state’s economy. These activities include fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, biking and bird watching.
Burnett County has over 500 lakes and 80 miles of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway along with 52,000 acres of wildlife area. For ATVs there are about 50 miles of summer trails and 80 miles of frozen ground ATV/UTV trails.
“The outdoor recreation economy contributes $7.8 billion, or 2.4%, to Wisconsin’s GDP,” the report states. “For perspective, the outdoor recreation economy’s contribution to GDP is larger than the size of the GDP contributed from mining and farming combined.”
In the summer, anglers spend $1.5 billion in Wisconsin. In the fall, waterfowl hunters spend $19 million on trips and equipment while ATV riders spend Almost $300 million on trips annually.
As the state enters winter, snowmobilers spend about $250 million on trips every year. Then in the spring, bicyclists spend an estimated $534 in the state and wildlife watchers spend a total of $1.5 billion annually.
“Wisconsin has long valued our vast outdoor recreation offerings, and this report leaves no doubt about the veracity, weight and importance of outdoor recreation’s economic impact in our state,” said Secretary-designee Sara Meaney. “The outdoors is consistently a top driver of tourism in Wisconsin, and while travel has taken a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor recreation has been essential to keeping communities healthy and economically viable.”
The report also shows how vital outdoor recreation was as the pandemic ramped up in the spring of 2020.
• 24% increase in sales of ATV trail passes
• 100% increase in first-time buyers of Wisconsin fishing licenses
• 18% more weekend visits to state parks
• 70% increase in national boat sales
• 371% increase in online searches for hiking trails on TravelWisconsin.com
The report reiterates recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data showing Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation industry’s strong foundation contributes $7.8 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. Over 93,000 jobs across diverse sectors – from tourism to manufacturing to retail and the arts – are supported by outdoor recreation and contribute $3.9 billion in compensation to Wisconsinites. The pace of the industry’s growth was faster than Wisconsin’s overall economy prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The outdoor recreation industry is a vital part of the economy, nationwide and in Wisconsin. And as participation increases – an Outdoor Recreation Roundtable survey found in May that 81% of Americans spent time outdoors since the onset of the pandemic, and 32.5% were participating in outdoor activities for the first time - it will be increasingly important to support the industry and its partners in our backyard,” explained Mary Monroe Brown, director of the Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation. “That increase in participation has also resulted in record demand for outdoor gear and equipment that our Wisconsin manufacturers, retailers, and outfitters are working diligently to fulfill in order to help people experience Wisconsin’s rich outdoor recreation offerings.”