Best Practices for States to Fund Outdoor Recreation

Seven case studies illustrate best practices and lessons learned to develop programs for outdoor state recreation funding.

  • As demand for outdoor recreation increases and communities recognize its diverse economic and social benefits, many states are developing funding programs to support outdoor recreation.
  • States have adopted a variety of enabling mechanisms, revenue sources, and administrative approaches.
  • The strongest programs have dedicated revenue through constitutional amendment or statute; broad coalitions of support; flexibility to fund diverse geographies, communities, and project outcomes; the ability to leverage funds; and strong accountability and transparency.
  • Case studies from seven states highlight different strategies and best practices.

Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic engine, generating more than $887 billion in consumer spending in the United States. It also benefits public health, quality of life, property values, and the local tax base, generating $59.2 billion in local and state tax revenue. Business owners also use access to outdoor recreation as an effective tool to recruit and keep talent.

Many states have authorized mechanisms for funding outdoor recreation, and even in an era of divisive political polarization, voters continually and strongly support measures for the outdoors. In fact, more than 80 percent of funding for recreation and conservation is generated at the state and local level. Strategies are diverse and often tied to other values such as habitat conservation, farmland preservation, and cultural heritage.

This report, produced for the Outdoor Industry Association, focuses on state funding mechanisms that support outdoor recreation, including strategies employed across the country, best practices for funding outdoor recreation at the state level, and detailed case studies of seven states: Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and Washington.