Everyone knows how important the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are to outdoor recreation, right? After all, they manage hundreds of millions of acres of our nation’s public lands and waters and welcome hundreds of millions of recreation visits each year. But did you know there’s another federal department that plays a big role in the future of outdoor recreation – the U.S. Department of Commerce. And that role is growing.
 
Commerce is home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which manages 11.4 million square miles of U.S. fisheries, 13 national marine sanctuaries, two marine national monuments, and much more. These underwater parks encompass more than 600,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters from Washington State to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa, offering fishing, boating, wreck-diving, whale watching, snorkeling, and much more. Check out more great things to do in your sanctuaries here.  
 
NOAA is also home to the National Weather Service, which helps provide everyone in the U.S. with timely and accurate weather, water and climate forecasts vital to enjoying healthy, active fun in the great Outdoors.
 
Commerce’s role isn’t limited to NOAA. The National Travel and Tourism Office plays an active role in domestic and international policy issues related to the U.S. travel and tourism industry. We know that recreation on public lands and waters is important to the American people, but its importance to the U.S. travel and tourism industry doesn’t stop there.  In 2016, 35.4% of all overseas travelers visited national parks and monuments, supporting rural gateway communities, guides and outfitters, park concessioners and more.
 
Another important Commerce agency is the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) – which measures the U.S. economy.  BEA recently released final statistics for the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA), the first-ever official measurement of outdoor recreation’s impact on nation’s economy.  “The numbers…are simply phenomenal,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at an event hosted by the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “They show that the outdoor recreation industry generated $412 billion in revenue in 2016, accounting for 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP in 2016.  That is a very, very large number. To put this industry in perspective, it is a bigger contributor to GDP than the chemical manufacturing sector at 2.1 percent, and all the nation’s utilities, at 1.5 percent of GDP.” See Secretary Ross’ full comments here.
 
To learn more about the U.S. Department of Commerce, visit its website at www.commerce.gov.