The Value of Montana’s Outdoors

Montana is blessed with rich outdoor assets, including 33.8 million acres of public lands, nearly 170,000 miles of river, and more than 3,200 lakes and reservoirs.

This generates $7.1 billion in consumer spending, $286 million in state and local taxes, and 71,000 jobs.

Montanans Care About the Outdoors

Montana’s outdoors is part of the state’s culture: 95% of Montanans say outdoor recreation is important to their quality of life. In a recent poll, 87% of Montanans call themselves outdoor recreation enthusiasts and 81% support conservation of wildlife migration corridors.

Visitation to Montana state parks has increased 40% over the last decade. Trail use and visitation has also climbed, with 72% of Montana households using trails each year.

Nearly 30% of Montanans over the age of 15 participate in motorized recreation. Recreation with off-highway vehicles and snowmobiles increased more than 200% in Montana since 2000.

Most Montanans consider themselves  outdoor recreation enthusiasts and conservationists.

The Outdoors is Big Business

Montana’s outdoor recreation economy generates $7.1 billion in consumer spending, $286 million in state and local taxes, and 71,000 jobs. Montanans also understand the economic influence of outdoor recreation—96% say it is important to the economic future of the state.

In 2017, anglers spent $919.3 million in more than 3.3 million angling days, and hunters spent $389.2 million in more than 2.6 million hunter days. Cyclists, off-highway vehicle users, alpine skiers, and guests on guided trips also generate significant income and jobs for the state.

Montana's outdoor recreation economy  contributes income and jobs.

A 2018 survey of high tech and manufacturing companies in Montana found that our quality of life—“our lifestyle, recreational opportunities, and the beauty of the landscape”—is the most frequently-mentioned advantage to doing business in the state. The same survey found that the high tech industry is growing nine times faster than the overall Montana economy and pays twice the state’s median wage.

Montana's outdoors benefits the economy in several ways.

Headwaters Economics published this report in partnership with Business for Montana’s Outdoors for discussion at the 2019 Last Best Outdoor Fest. Download the full report and data sources.

Ray Rasker, Ph.D.

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Kelly Pohl