Published: Sept. 2, 2020 By

Colorado is home to a thriving outdoor industry and recreation economy. This economy brings in tens of billions of dollars in state revenue and over half a million jobs. The United States’ outdoor economy receives $887 billion in spending each year, 7.6 million jobs, and $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue. Before Covid, this industry was growing at 2.2%, which was larger than the US economy as a whole. To say the outdoor recreation economy is important to our federal and local economies, would be an understatement. Outdoor recreation has long been an integral part of Colorado’s DNA, and now is being fully recognized as a vital part of our economy.Hikers

Due to the significance of the outdoor industry, the Masters of the Environment is adding a fifth specialization, Sustainability in the Outdoor Industry (SOI), to the program. This specialization will focus on the intersectionality of sustainable business, public lands policy, community resilience and environmental decision-making. In depth study of sustainable business will teach students about the wholesalers, manufacturers, and the guides who provide products and services for people to take advantage of open spaces and recreate. Understanding these details of the outdoor industry can give SOI students a leg-up in understanding how to apply sustainability and resilience tactics to regular outdoor industry operations. 

The second focus of the program is on public lands policy. Policies and regulations that govern access and sustainable use are imperative for the proper use, conservation, and enjoyment of public lands. With current political structures and bills like ‘The American Public Lands Acts of 2019’, this area of focus will be pertinent to career growth and sector awareness. Students and professionals who complete this focus will emerge with knowledge and practical experience in these areas, ready to address the new policy challenges facing public lands.

Another focus of the program is on resilient communities. Recreation economies often bring in large amounts of people to delicate natural areas. With knowledge of how to increase community resilience, participants in the program will be equipped to protect natural areas, while maintaining recreational activities, infrastructure, and allow rural communities to diversify, showcase their culture, and grow. 

BikersStudents will also engage in environmental decision-making. This discipline will teach students how to guide community and group decision making processes and will be tailored to topics of environmental management, organizations and discourses. Environmental decision-making courses will also focus on decision analysis, organizational behavior, economics and policy analysis.

Not only will this program provide necessary education for outdoor recreation, it offers students hands-on learning experiences with faculty who have worked and influenced the outdoor industry directly. Students will be prepared to receive jobs in the outdoor products industry, recreation service and delivery, public lands policy, and economic development.

Finally, as most know, the outdoor recreation industry has been hit over the last few decades by climate change. Winter sports being some of the greatest impacted. On top of this impending issue, the Coronavirus Pandemic has taken an even greater toll on the outdoor recreation industry. As classes continue to be moved online for the foreseeable future, this program will create a safe space for students to learn and grow to better combat the issues that the outdoor recreation economy will face when the pandemic finally subsides. There will need to be greater rebuilding and policy management than ever before and the students who finish the SOI specialization will be specifically equipped to handle these challenges. 

SOI will serve professionals with a variety of backgrounds so that they will have a unique and in depth understanding of sustainability in the outdoor industry as they go forward in their careers. The first year of SOI students are expected to begin classes in the fall of 2021. If you are interested in learning more and applying to the program, please visit the SOI webpage