Wyoming: OREC Rising 

 In a Western state where the economy is heavily supported by coal, two new reports suggest the Republican governor is eyeing outdoor business and recreation for the state's long-term economic viability. 

By Cailin O'Brien-Feeney November 7, 2017

When you think of Wyoming it’s likely that the Tetons, Yellowstone, elk and pronghorn hunting, trout fishing, and skiing come to mind. When Wyoming thinks of itself, its future includes all those things as the cornerstone of a robust outdoor recreation economy. 

Over the past year, the state of Wyoming, under the leadership of Republican Governor Matt Mead, has given a heightened level of attention to outdoor recreation. 

“The business climate, workforce, cost of living, and quality of life—not to mention our state’s great beauty—make Wyoming a great option for new, existing and expanding businesses, said Mead. “The outdoor industry fits here perfectly, and we look forward to seeing it grow.”  

“The business climate, workforce, cost of living, and quality of life—not to mention our state’s great beauty – make Wyoming a great option for new, existing and expanding businesses. The outdoor industry fits here perfectly, and we look forward to seeing it grow.” – Governor Matt Mead

To that end, in 2016 Mead created a 26-member Governor’s Task Force on Outdoor Recreation. The group—comprised of representatives from business, government, NGOs, outdoor recreation groups and which includes several OIA members—spent the past 12 months gathering 500 recommendations from around the state. They whittled those down to 59 recommendations that fall into 11 major categories.  

“Access to recreation opportunities includes available outdoor recreation amenities and outreach to underserved groups like youth or veterans. Maintaining access to public and state lands is key for outdoor recreation in Wyoming.” —Wyoming Governor’s Task Force on Outdoor Recreation Final Report, page 9.  

 Top recommendations from the task force’s final report: 

  • Dedicate resources and funding at the state government level to provide continuity and accountability and to ensure that the Task Force’s recommendations are implemented. 
  • Attract and retain outdoor recreation businesses. 
  • Promote, increase, enhance and support inclusive outdoor recreation programs, and train a qualified and diverse outdoor recreation workforce. 
  • Help outdoor business entrepreneurs tap into various funding streams; develop a dedicated funding source separate from the general fund for the Office of Tourism and infrastructure. 

 Also released last week: the Wyoming Business Council’s first Outdoor Recreation Industry Report. It compiled existing research and a new industry survey, and it identified state business services available to companies in the outdoor sector. The Outdoor Recreation Industry Report notes that the outdoor recreation economy in Wyoming is growing and a majority of Wyoming outdoor companies have plans to expand their operations in the next three years. Workforce development, employee retention and an uncertain state and federal legislative environments were cited as opportunities for improvement. 

Taken together, the two reports clearly indicate that outdoor recreation is now one of the state’s six key industries. The pair of reports highlight growth opportunities and a clear and concise suite of policy recommendations. Energy development will remain a bedrock of Wyoming’s economy, but this report signals a desire for outdoor recreation to also drive much needed economic diversification in a state where coal has been king.  

Outdoor Industry Association thanks Governor Mead, the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources (SPCR) and Wyoming Business Council for their work and we look forward to continuing to work productively together to implement the recommendations in the report and grow Wyoming’s Outdoor Recreation economy.