The outdoor recreation economy is among our nation’s largest and fastest growing economic sectors and provides livelihoods for millions of American workers. Nationally, outdoor recreation accounts for 7.6 million jobs and provides $887 billion in annual consumer spending. The state of Colorado represents a significant piece of the national outdoor economy, supporting 511,000 direct jobs and $28 billion in annual consumer spending.

The outdoor recreation industry sector remains, however, relatively new and holds great potential for the integration of sustainability concepts into all of its elements. For example, innovation is needed across outdoor recreation businesses industry in leadership and sustainable operations; new policies and regulations must be created to govern and promote access to public lands; and outdoor amenities must be leveraged to grow local, sustainable economies at the local scale.

The MENV Sustainability in the Outdoor Industry (SOI) specialization prepares its students to successfully engage with and be future leaders in the outdoor recreation economy. MENV views the outdoor recreation economy holistically. The SOI specialization looks at the intersection of outdoor recreation businesses, public lands policy, and resilient communities. Students will receive foundational understanding in each of these areas and will develop skills and knowledge to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by outdoor recreation.

Students graduating from the Sustainability in the Outdoor Industry track will be prepared to work in in the outdoor industry, economic development, and the public lands and natural resources policy sectors, as they relate to outdoor recreation.

Course Requirements

In this course, the outdoor recreation economy is viewed holistically. Content in this course provides an introduction to public lands and natural resources policy, challenges and opportunities for community economic development, and the outdoor recreation industry.  Outdoor recreation economy definitions, theories and frameworks are discussed and critically examined. Key stakeholders are identified, along with current and future trends, opportunities, and challenges. The need for sustainable practices and cross-cultural understanding and communication within the outdoor recreation economy is also emphasized. Finally, we will explore the diverse career opportunities that exist within the outdoor recreation industry.

The goal of this course is to provide students with the knowledge and tools to drive environmental and social responsibility in the business sector. The first part of the course will be focused on creating the case for a new business model by looking at market failures, the environmental crisis, and the role businesses play in being a force for good. The second part will explore the practical tools required to implement sustainable solutions throughout a businesses’ value chain including topics such as strategy development, supply chain management, philanthropy, and political advocacy. The course will draw heavily on case studies and real-world examples to help students create their own framework for holistic corporate impact. 

This course will address the context in which environmental laws have been created, as well as the customs and laws related to resilience, sustainability, stewardship, and honorable practice.  It will concentrate on law as a means of market regulation, cultural expression, health, equity, and justice.   Water and land law, property rights, wildlife and public land management, and other topics of historical and ongoing relevance will be discussed. 

This course examines the important role that the outdoor recreation economy (ORE) can play in community economic development. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the outdoor recreation economy in the U.S accounted for $412 billion dollars (2.2% of the U.S. GDP) in 2016, gaining the attention of states, cities, and towns. Whether seeking to incentivize outdoor recreation-focused businesses to relocate to a destination, improving equitable access to outdoor recreation amenities and services to enhance quality of life, and/or developing and supporting new and exciting home-grown outdoor recreation businesses and activities, communities are increasingly recognizing the many ways in which the ORE can positively contribute to their development.

Sample Course Sequences

For student matriculating in August 2021