Best of the West: Outdoor recreation economy booming; fatal flood subsides in Texas; Colorado’s prehistoric past

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Sept. 23, 2019. (Photo: Colorado Tourism Office)

It's common knowledge that outdoor recreation is big business, especially in the West. The latest evidence comes from a recent Bureau of Economic Analysis report that revealed the outdoor recreation economy grew by 3.9% in 2017, faster than the overall U.S. economy rate of 2.4%. In total, the sector generated $427 billion, or 2.2% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Trade Only Today reported that boating and fishing was the largest outdoor activity sector at $20.9 billion. It also was the largest activity in 29 states and the District of Columbia, led by Florida ($2.7 billion) and California ($1.8 billion). A Bloomberg story noted that the economies of Hawaii, Montana and Maine are the most reliant on outdoor recreation. See what percentage of each state’s GDP the sector accounted for on this map created by the federal bureau.

The latest recognition of this burgeoning impact in the West came this week when New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham named Axie Navas as Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, which was launched in April. The Governor also created an Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee at that time.

The creation of the New Mexico office means that 13 states have an office dedicated to outdoor recreation. WGA hosted a roundtable discussion featuring the directors of outdoor recreation from Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming at our 2018 Winter Meeting.

Texas Flooding’s Fatal Legacy: At least five people are dead after Tropical Depression Imelda dumped as much as 43 inches of rain on southeast Texas over the course of a 72-hour period last week. As flooding in the greater Houston area subsides, preliminary statistics show that approximately 340 single-family homes in Harris County were affected by the storm, 76 of which suffered “major” damage. Read more in the Houston Business Journal.

Past Quakes, Future Clues: Earthquake researchers in Oregon and Washington are collecting mud samples from lake bottoms to gain insight into the history of the region’s seismic activity. By probing for sediment deposits in various bodies of water, scientists can determine the intensity of ancient earthquakes, with the hope of using that knowledge to prepare the Pacific Northwest for the next “big one.” Learn more about the process and what it’s revealed.

The Only Native Palm: Palm trees may be a quintessential part of southern California’s landscape, but according to KCET, many of these plants are imposters. Washingtonia filifera – also known as the California Fan Palm – is the only type of palm native to the western U.S. The rest were planted by early settlers, hoping to brand the region as a semi-tropical, fertile land. Find out how and where you can spot fan palms.

Denver’s Prehistoric Past: Long before the Colorado Rockies’ triceratops mascot, Dinger, roamed Coors Field, a different kind of dinosaur populated the state’s capital. Deep in the basement of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science lies a collection of fossils, including triceratops, duck-billed dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals, many of which are collected from various construction sites across the city, including the baseball stadium. Read more.

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