The Formation of State Offices of Outdoor Recreation and an Analysis of Their Ability to Partner with Federal Land Management Agencies

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Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism


Elsevier BV

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Over the past five years, political leaders and representatives from the outdoor recreation industry in the United States have actively advocated for an increased recognition of the economic importance of outdoor recreation to local and state economies. These efforts have resulted in several offices being created within state government to advocate for the outdoor recreation industry; acknowledging the industry is just as important to states’ economies as more traditional sectors like agriculture or health care. By early 2018, 11 states had established state offices of outdoor recreation. These offices, though embedded within various sectors of state government, often coordinate across or blend the functions of economic development, tourism, and land management, ultimately providing innovative opportunities for collaboration. While the state offices universally seek to develop the outdoor recreation economy, that economy fundamentally relies on access to natural landscapes, the majority of which are managed by federal land management agencies in the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture. Through a mixed-methods investigation, we describe the formation of state offices of outdoor recreation and analyze their ability to partner with federal land management agencies. Through the collection of secondary data, we provide a systematic description of the characteristics that define these newly formed offices. Additionally, by conducting and analyzing 22 interviews with individuals in leadership positions within state offices of outdoor recreation, we are able to provide a framework that describes how these offices conceptualize their role in state government. Our discussion focuses on the possibility of future collaborations between state offices of outdoor recreation and federal land management agencies to promote and enhance the economic, social, and environmental benefits of outdoor recreation.

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