Background      The Value of Roadless Areas      Recreation
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Tourists enjoy rafting on Colorado's treasured waterways.   
Colorado Environmental Coalition

Recreation-based tourism on our protected public lands helps make our state a popular destination. From families on fishing vacations to businesses that relocate to Colorado for our outstanding quality of life, it is the proximity of these recreational opportunities that adds so much value to the Colorado experience. With growing numbers of people taking up outdoor recreational activities, it is ever more important that we preserve the special places that make our lifestyle and tourism industry possible.



Coloradans in the Outdoors
Residents of Colorado have long treasured an active outdoor lifestyle, and the number of people participating in these activities is only increasing. Coloradans’ quality of life is undeniably enhanced by the proximity of opportunities to fish, hunt, picnic, backpack, or simply relax and take in the views.

  • 76% of Coloradans participate in human-powered (non-motorized) outdoor recreation. (1)

  • A recent survey conducted by Colorado State Parks concluded that Colorado residents’ first choices for outdoor destinations are wilderness and undeveloped areas. (2)

  • The National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, a project of the US Forest Service Research Station, showed that Coloradans’ top three preferred outdoor activities are 1) viewing/learning (80% participating), 2) hiking (62% participating), and 3) picnicking (60% participating). (3)

  • Bird watching is the fastest growing activity (+155% change between 1982 and 1994-5) followed by hiking (+94%), backpacking (+73%) and primitive areas camping (+58%). (4)

Click to view map:

Quiet Use Areas

Cutthroat Trout Habitat


Recreation and the Economy

  • Tourism generates more than $7 billion and contributes more than half a billion dollars to state and local tax coffers annually. (5)

  • In 2001, 71% of visitors on overnight pleasure trips reported experiencing the mountains of Colorado. 77% of these trips were visits to wilderness settings or lakes and rivers. (6)

  • Coloradans spend about $200 million on outdoor gear annually. (7)

  • While the intrinsic value of Colorado's wildlife is incalculable, a recent report by a Denver research firm concluded that fishing and hunting generated $1.5 billion in 2002 to the state’s economy, and wildlife watching added another $560 million. Many of these wildlife species depend on Roadless Areas for essential habitat. (8)

  • The Forest Service’s own studies show that conservation activities generate about three times the revenue and five times the number of jobs than extraction industries on Forest Service land. (9) 

Click to view graph:

Percent of Coloradans Participating in Outdoor Recreation

Projected Number of Recreationists in the Rocky Mountain Region by Activity and Year


Millions of people every year enjoy  non-motorized recreation in our National Forests.   
Colorado Environmental Coalition

Public Lands, Recreation, and Healthy Economies
Traditionally, people’s locations have been determined by the locations of their jobs. Now, due largely to technological advances, companies are able to base themselves in the places people want to live, moving the jobs to the places with public land amenities and high quality of life. Communities near protected public lands have more stable economies due to their ability to attract workers, diversified high wage businesses, and tourists. This is driven by people’s desire to visit, settle, and do business in rural areas offering outdoor recreation opportunities and amenities. (10)

  • From 1970 to 2000, real per capita income in rural, connected counties that contained protected public lands grew 75% faster than rural counties without protected lands. (11)

  • There is an inverse relationship between resource dependence and economic growth; the more dependent a state’s economy is on personal income earned from resource extractive industries, the slower the growth rate of the economy as a whole. (12)





Additional Maps

Quiet Use Areas

Cutthroat Trout Habitat

More Maps


For more information:


Outdoor Industry Association, 2004

2 Colorado State Parks.  State of
  Colorado Outdoor Recreation
  Program Report.  2004.

3 Ibid. (sample size=1001)

4 Cordell, Ken, et al, “Outdoor Recreation Participation Trends”, 1999.  Pg. 239.

5 Colorado Tourism Office

6 State Parks Division of the Colorado
  Department of Natural Resources,
  “Colorado Statewide Comprehensive
   Outdoor Recreation Plan,” 2004

7 2003, Outdoor Industry Association.

8 Colorado Department of Natural

9 Alward, G. et al., 2003. Evaluating the   economic significance of the USDA Forest Service strategic plan (2000 revision): Methods and results for programmatic evaluations. Fort Collins, CO: USDA Forest Service Inventory and Monitoring Report No. 6. 45 p.

10 Park, T. 2001. “The Economic Impact of the Proposed Maine Woods National Park and Preserve.” RESTORE: The North Woods. Hallowell, ME

11 Rasker, R., Alexander, B., van den
Noort, J., Carter, R. 2004. “Prosperity in the 21
st Century West.”  Sonoran

12 Ibid.