Best of the West: Federal report shows outdoor recreation’s huge economic impact, Wyoming’s solution for brain drain, California considers water restrictions

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting February 12, 2018, that you don't want to miss.

The outdoor recreation industry contributes $673 billion annually to the U.S. GDP. That’s more than agriculture, petroleum and coal, and computer and electronic products, according to a new report by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Outdoor recreation is an economic boon to western states, where access to hundreds of state parks drives spending on retail, boating, motorized vehicles such as RVs, and more.  “This report measures what so many of Colorado’s businesses, sportsmen, and local governments already know: The outdoor-recreation industry boosts our state’s economy” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennett.

In Idaho, visits to state parks pumped $184 million into the Gem State’s economy in 2016, according to a study by Boise State University and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. In Oregon, outdoor activities generate more than $16 billion annually. WGA previously shared a 2017 report on the impact of the outdoor recreation economy in Best of the West, find it here.

California Back in Drought? Water restrictions may be reinstated in California, one year after Gov. Jerry Brown lifted the state’s emergency drought status. Extremely dry conditions in recent months has prompted the State Water Resources Control Board to consider $500 fines for wasteful water practices, which could remain in place permanently.  

Investing in Tech’s Future: Wyoming is considering adding computer science as a requirement in schools to prevent the phenomenon known as “brain drain.” In his State of the State Address, Gov. Matt Mead said “Computer science is an important classroom subject, as important in this day and age as any. It’s is a requisite for our students to become life-ready, workforce-ready.”

Montana to Enlist Tribal Expert: A new position, Tribal Tourism Officer, has been created by the Montana Chamber of Commerce to promote ‘authentic’ native tourism. Working with the eight Native American nations in the state, the officer will develop culturally appropriate materials and services in response to growing interest from visitors.  

Count the Cardinals: This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual event for citizen scientists to contribute to research on bird populations. Keep an eye out for the western meadowlark, which is the state bird of Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming.

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