Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Jordan W. Smith


Jordan W. Smith


Chris Monz


Travis Dorsch


Outdoor recreation is a robust pillar of local, state, and national economies as well as a critical component of residents’ quality of life. Recognition of the economic power of the outdoor industry, fused with the growing desire for greater outdoor recreation opportunities, has inspired more than 11 states to establish state offices of outdoor recreation. The organizational structure and mission of each office is tailored to each state, varying from temporary task forces, councils, and commissions to more permanent offices or advisory positions. 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 vast majority of which are managed by the federal land management agencies in the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture.

The purpose of this study is to explore how these state offices have evolved and now operate, including their formation, goals and programs, internal organization and resources, and external partnerships. Through comprehensive interviews with each office’s leadership, our research provides a baseline understanding of the role of these new offices and addresses their partnerships at the local, state, and federal levels. I discuss challenges each office has faced, best practices, and recommendations for future collaboration. The findings of this research will better inform the National Park Service and other federal land management agencies on opportunities to support shared recreation and conservation goals. Together, the newly created state offices of outdoor recreation and the stewards of their public lands can promote and enhance the economic, social, and environmental benefits of outdoor recreation.