(California News Service) California is number one in the country for dollars spent on camping, hiking, climbing, and biking, according to the latest federal data.
The most recent report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis also names boating and RV trips as the state's most lucrative outdoor sector.
Katie Hawkins, California program manager for the nonprofit Outdoor Alliance, said outdoor recreation added $862 billion to the national economy in 2021.
"Outdoor recreation is 1.6 percent of the state's GDP," Hawkins reported. "It employs around 517,000 people, and accounts for $54 billion in spending."
Advocates are asking Congress to pass America's Outdoor Recreation Act, and the PUBLIC Lands Act. The latter would add wilderness protection to more than 600,000 acres of land and protect more than 580 miles of rivers in the Northwest part of the state, the central coast, and in Southern California.
Opponents say current protections are sufficient and warn additional regulations could stifle economic activity in mining, logging, and oil and gas.
Hawkins countered the bills would help California reach its goal of protecting 30 percent of the land and water by the year 2030, which would help with the fight against global warming and sea level rise, because undisturbed land sequesters carbon.
"Here in California, we have seen firsthand the profound effects of climate change with the increasingly severe wildfire seasons, drought, and heat waves," Hawkins observed.
Conservation groups are pressing lawmakers to bring the bills up for a vote during the lame-duck session, before the end of the year.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.