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Outdoor Economy

Outdoor Entrepreneurs on Public Land: Risk, Reward, and Government Shutdown

A look into the benefits and history of public lands and national parks and the risks of doing business with the government

Public lands are incredibly valuable to the economy and often bring a sense of national pride and enjoyment. 48% of entrepreneurs surveyed by Small Business Majority agreed that access to public lands and other outdoor opportunities was a large reason why they live and do business in their state and “90% believe public spaces that draw tourists could boost business for local restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and more for drawing visitors”. There are many outdoor entrepreneurs who have carved out a successful niche tied to public lands that provides them with a prosperous and enjoyable lifestyle. Yet, there are also risks and sacrifice when your business is tied to land controlled by the government.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are over 6,555 national parks worldwide that are defined as: “conservation of wild nature for posterity and as a symbol of national pride”. The United States is a recognized leader in the history of preservation of public land starting with president Andrew Jackson signing legislation to protect the Arkansas Hot Springs in 1832, then President Abraham Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864, and President Ulysses S. Grant signing legislation to establish Yellowstone National Park as the first internationally recognized National Park in the world in 1872. Later, Theodore Roosevelt greatly expanded land conservation by protecting more than 150 million acres of public land and establishing 5 national parks during his lifetime. The efforts of private citizens like Galen Clark and John Muir were instrumental in influencing government officials in order to make conservation legislation happen. Today, the United States has 401 sites and 84 million acres of land under the protection of the National Park Service. The majority of national parks provide outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities for millions of visitors every year.

YosemiteOne of the most famous of these parks in the United States is Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was given it’s name in 1851 by Lafayette Bunnell, a doctor who spent time with indian hunters of the Mariposa Battalion and misunderstood “Yosemite” as the name of the Ahwahneechee tribe that the Battalion was searching for. “Yohhhe’meti” actually meant “they are killers” in the native language of the Ahwahneechee referring to the soldiers. In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed a law that protected 1500 acres in the Yosemite Valley. Thanks to an epic meeting between John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt in the Yosemite Valley in 1903, the protection was expanded to the surrounding mountains and eventually to the 761,268 acres protected in the park today.

 

Over 3.7 million people visit Yosemite each year to hike through the 800 miles of trails among the giant Seqouias, rock climb the granite boulders or 3300ft peak of El Capitan, ski through the majestic slopes in winter, or raft the Merced River. Many outdoor entrepreneurs, guides, and park rangers lead groups on various excursions through the park’s vast expanses of biodiversity.

On Yosemite’s 123rd birthday, all visitors are being sent home and businesses are being shut down. This is true for all the government run national parks and wildlife refuges across the United States. Over 21,379 National Park employees are being furloughed due to the government shutdown that happened October 1, 2013.

That is just one of the risks of doing business on public land.

It often takes a lot of work to wade through the bureaucracy in order to get a permit to provide a service in a national park or wildlife refuge. Permits can sometimes be granted through an application process. There are also opportunities to bid on government contracts in order to become a concessionaire. If one should become fortunate enough to win the bid, they must operate under the strict guidelines outlined in the contract. The benefits will sometimes result in the exclusive right to run certain trips and provide services on the land. This can be very rewarding and give access to places where others are forbidden. Some issues can arise from the strict scheduling, pricing, and numbers of clients that are allowed at one time. All of that needs to be taken into consideration before accepting the terms of the contract. I know many operators who have done very well providing ferry tours to national parks and wildlife refuges, although sometimes they are required to run regardless of the number of passengers.  They count on the times of plenty to make up for the slow times.  It can sometimes be a delicate balancing act.

There are many risks and rewards for doing business on public land. Any entrepreneur who is interested in going through the process must consider all the consequences before taking action. Try to go through every scenario and make a plan. Many things can affect your business that are beyond your control, even a government shutdown.

How does Outdoor Recreation Inspire Scientific Discovery and Innovation?

 

BenFranklinDuplessis

Did Ben Franklin discover Kite-boarding?

“When Ben Franklin was 9, his eldest brother was lost at sea, still Ben never lost his love for the water.

On a pleasant day, while young Ben was flying a kite, he decided to go for a swim.  Still wanting to fly his kite but reluctant to leave the water, it occurred to him he need not forgo one diversion for the other.  While in the water he let the kite pull him across the pond without the least fatigue and the greatest pleasure imaginable!”

(“Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv)

Could this event have led Ben Franklin to discover electricity and kite boarding!?

Ben Franklin did spend a lot of time playing outside as a child and was insatiably curious about what he encountered. Franklin’s curiosity would later inspire him to write theories about electricity, weather, ocean currents, and other discoveries that influenced many of the innovators who would follow.

Many scientists and inventors that have led to the technology and inventions we take for granted today have been inspired by their time recreating outside and observing nature.  Nikola Tesla was known to take long walks and spend time at the park contemplating his many theories.  Much of the modern wireless technology was developed from his ideas. 

How does Outdoor Recreation in natural areas inspire innovation?

Outdoor recreation in natural areas has been shown to improve mental and physical well-being.  According to a number of studies conducted over the last 25 years, unstructured physical activity in the outdoors inspires natural curiosity, improves social and emotional development, enhances perception and motor skills, builds creativity, encourages self-expression, and develops appreciation for the environment.

In a Janaury 2005 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Burdette and Whitaker show that free play outdoors promotes problem solving and decision making, which is one of the highest executive functions.  Several small studies along with surveys of parents and teachers have shown that free play also reduces attention deficit disorder and improves focus.

Our experiences shape the way we view the world.

Children that play outside see themselves as part of a larger ecosystem and are exposed to natural laws. Children that spend time in the natural world are less fearful of it.

Many people in the developed world spend most of their time disconnected from the outside world.  From their home, to the car, to school or the office and back, people do everything they can to keep a barrier between them and nature.  The average American child spends less than 30 minutes in outdoor unstructured play.  Studies have shown that the sedentary, plugged in lifestyle may be responsible for the 200% rise in obesity and trepidation in the outdoors. A 2009 study showed that 62% of children surveyed in developed countries had a fear of natural events such as snow, thunder, and rain.  Inventors like Franklin and Tesla embraced natural events as opportunities to gain a better understanding of the world.

Outdoor Recreation is exercise for your brain.

Physical activity in natural areas has also been shown to increase attentiveness and greatly improve the brains ability to learn and retain information. Physical activity causes the brain to function more efficiently through a process called neurogenesis, where new brain cells are produced stimulating BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which has been nicknamed “fertilizer for the brain”.

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning” according to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.  Some of the highest performing schools in math and science in the world are incorporating physical activity as part of the curriculum. “Exercise and the Brain” has been the focus of several courses led by Wendy Suzuki, associate professor of neuroscience at New York University.

Outdoor recreation is not just Childsplay.

Canadian researchers found that physical activity greatly improved the cognitive function and physical well-being of elderly adults analyzed over two to five years in a 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

An understanding of nature is being encouraged by many businesses.  Companies such as IBM, GE, Boeing, Airbus, Nike, Levi’s, Johnson & Johnson and others are now encouraging their engineers to spend time observing nature in order to design the products of the future. The study of natural systems has led to incredible nature inspired innovations on desalinating water, architectural design, powerful adhesives, medicines, aviation design, and extremely strong and lightweight materials.

 

766px-Kitesurfer_in_closeup_exmouth_devon_arpOutdoor recreation has also been shown to reduce employee stress and stress related absences causing an increase in productivity and morale in the work place.

“Let My People Go Surfing” was the attitude and book title of Yvon Choinand, CEO of Patagonia. He attributes Patagonia’s increase in sales from $20 million to $100 million from the mid 1980s to 1990 to the culture of happy, motivated people that worked for the company and often went recreating outdoors during lunch breaks and weekends.

Whether raising a child, improving grades, stimulating a business, or developing the next genius, breakthrough invention, it might be time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Lessons from the Mountain: Outdoor Education for Entrepreneurs

Mountain Morgue

 

Lessons from the Mountain

One of the best places to contemplate is on top of a mountain.  There are so many things that can be learned and applied to one’s business and life from the process of climbing a mountain.  Those that hike with their mind open learn different things from the journey.  There are several schools and education programs that use outdoor skills to teach team building, leadership and life lessons.

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from climbing a mountain.  About 7 years ago, I climbed Mount Whitney with Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen.  (Mark Victor Hansen is a speaker and famed co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for The Soul” series.  Robert Allen is a renowned author, entrepreneur and real estate guru).  We climbed together with a group of entrepreneurs on a trip organized by my friend Werner Berger, who is a business strategist who once broke the record as the oldest man to climb Mount Everest.  Our group had been watching Mark and Robert speak and teach from a stage over the prior weeks where they were very comfortable.   The hike to Mount Whitney was the first time we had the opportunity to interact in a situation where we all had to overcome challenges together in unfamiliar, treacherous territory.  We learned a lot about each of our strengths, limitations, and the value of teamwork.   It does not matter how much fame and fortune you have attained, when you are crossing a steep, snow covered slope that drops thousands of feet off a cliff, everyone is on the same playing field.  The view from the summit made it all worth it.

Robert Allen often uses his experience of a previous dangerous hike he had taken as a lesson to illustrate the following:

The best fishing holes are usually found in the most difficult to reach places. Those that do what it takes to make the trip and overcome adversary, reap the benefits.

A few lessons that I took from the experience of climbing Mount Whitney were:

Be prepared
It is easier to get somewhere if you know where you are going.  It is smart to study the terrain you will be hiking and get a rough idea of what you are in for.  Make sure you have the right supplies and are prepared for emergencies.  You should also have an idea of who you will be climbing with.  A plan can help you avoid some real problems and help you have a much more enjoyable experience.  If things don’t go according to the plan, be ready to improvise with good judgment.

Keep steady and be persistent
The secret for reaching new heights really comes down to putting one foot in front of the other.  Learn from those who have come before you to chart your course.  Then keep chugging along with dogged persistence.  If you work as a team, your strengths are multiplied.

Bring a good guide
A competent guide is invaluable to help you avoid the common pitfalls and danger zones.  They can help guide you through the rough areas of the hike and get you to the summit a lot easier than if you were to go it alone.   There are many people that are willing to share their experience.  It makes sense to listen to them.

Expect ups and downs
There may be some really steep, arduous cliffs to climb as well as some easy plateaus and dips.  The trail to the top is full of challenges.  Be prepared to meet each one.  Realize that it is all part of the process.  Each time you overcome a challenge, you emerge stronger, wiser, and closer to your goal.

Enjoy every part of the journey
The great beauty of the climb is all around you every step of the way.  Everywhere you look there is something fascinating.  All the ups and downs have something to teach you.  Don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way.

Take advantage of the opportunities to gain a new perspective
Each part of the journey offers a different perspective.  The terrain, plants, and wildlife often change during an ascent.  You will get to see a different part of the mountain and gain a new understanding if you take time to absorb it. Once you sit on top and look back down over the vast peaks, take time to contemplate what you have done and enjoy the moment.

The natural world has so much to teach us.  I hope you find strength and enlightenment climbing your own personal mountains and share your experiences to help others.

 

Climate Change Discussions Distract from Simple Facts

Discussions on climate change often miss the point.  People are already set in their biases and will believe anything that confirms them and reject anything that does not.  The conversations usually deteriorate into either often ridiculous evaluations of scientific evidence or political bickering.  These digress from the clear, simple facts that clean air and clean water are a good idea and benefit people and the economy.
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Saving Energy Saves Money

There is no need for a climate scientists, mathematician, politician or talk show host to point out that if you use less electricity and fuel, you do not have to buy as much.  This means more money in your pocket. It also means that there should be more energy available, which should help the supply side.   You do not have to care about the fact that by saving energy you are burning less fossil fuel and producing less pollution.  You can do it just for the fact that it is good for you and your family.  A lot can be done by just simple behaviors of turning off the lights when you leave a room, keeping your door closed when the HVAC is on, turning down the thermostat at night, and others.  This does not raise taxes or require an act of congress.  A simple caulking gun can do wonders for your electric bill and you don’t even have to care that you are also helping the environment.  More money in the pocket of the common person is more money they have to pay their utility bills.

Industrial Air Pollution Beautiful Nature Home

Where would you rather live?
Less Pollution and Natural Areas Improve Local Economies and Quality of Life

Would you rather live next to a smokey industrial site in a place that is completely covered with concrete or near a place with trees and natural areas?  Where would you rather visit?  Where would you want your children to play?  Natural areas have been known to increase real estate values from nearly 20-40%, which creates more equity for homeowners. Natural areas provide places for people to explore and recreate which raises the quality of life and improves health.  A walk in a natural area can reduce stress level up to 50%.  People are more productive when they are healthy and miss less time at work due to stress related incidents. Outdoor play is good for child development.  There is also an opportunity to build an outdoor recreation industry.  It is also a lot more pleasant to live in a place where you can safely drink the water and breathe the air.

When I played soccer as a kid in Los Angeles, my teammates and I would often find ourselves bent over, grabbing our knees and coughing uncontrollably after a short run because of the smog.   Regardless of what you think about climate change, it is worth cleaning up the air just to help residents breathe better!

The Effort for Energy Efficiency Inspires Innovation

One of the easiest and most effective ways of reducing pollution is through energy efficiency.  This is good for everyone. Wouldn’t you rather heat and cool your home with minimal electricity, reduce your water bill, drive a vehicle that gets over 100 miles to the gallon and still enjoy your lifestyle?  The quest for efficiency inspires scientists and entrepreneurs to create new products and systems that lead to new jobs and businesses. There is some great work being done by many different groups around the world to find cleaner fuels, more productive agriculture methods that use fewer resources, create better building designs that use less energy while maintaining comfort, services and structural integrity, as well as a host of other innovations.  These have created businesses, jobs, and services that improve the economy while helping the world.

Wind_Farm
Efficiency Helps Ordinary Citizens

Products, systems and services reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and lower the cost of living. As transportation becomes more efficient and less costly, so does the price of food and products that are being transported. Reducing the demand for fuel means that there is more of it available. That should have as much of an affect on prices as drilling for more fuel.  More efficient vehicles help put more money in the pockets of ordinary citizens.  Of course, this is all good for the environment, but it is good for you also whether that matters to you or not.
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Clean Energy is Safer Clean energy creates jobs that pay well and do not have the types of risks that come with fossil energy. When is the last time you heard of the solar and wind power plant that exploded killing thousands of people and polluting waterways, destroying homes, and threatening to destroy tourism and fishing industries?  Ever heard of a geothermal plant incident that trapped hundreds of victims beneath the earth?  Like every industry, as the technology improves, the costs should go down. A diversified energy sector is safer and more resilient in uncertain times.  Energy that is produced locally means more money goes into the pockets of local workers instead of sent off to foreign countries that are not necessarily friendly which helps national security. At the same time, the locals do not run the risk of their town being crushed under coal sludge, destroyed by fuel fire and explosions, air pollution, or oil spills threatening their livelihoods.  You don’t even have to care that there is also less carbon emitted in the atmosphere.I have been inspired by the ability of human kind to fly and go to the moon, to speak to people around the world on a hand held device, to explore the deepest parts of the ocean, and to reach for the stars.  We can overcome the challenges of the future if we have the will.

Whether or not you believe in climate change, there are many reasons to take the same steps towards preventing it based on commonsense.

Massive Opportunity for Conservation and Business, Will They Miss it?

 

On top Rock Arms Open

There are major opportunities in the outdoor economy that have often been overlooked.

The disconnect between conservation and economic growth comes as a result of misunderstandings and misrepresentations of social and political groups that are either focused on protecting the environment or on building the economy. The truth of the matter is that
there is opportunity for both economic growth and conservation. This becomes clear when one does a proper analysis of the situation and removes all political biases. In fact, you cannot have one without the other. Ecological sustainability will never be achieved through a focus on environment and biodiversity alone.
Social and economic values and needs must become an integral concern of nature conservation management (TNSW p5).
Well managed natural resources have tremendous benefits to human health and quality of life as well as economic, education, and scientific advancement. This is a theme throughout this website and multiple reports.

The business sector does itself a disservice to try to demonize the conservation community as standing in the way of economic progress. Clean water, clean air, and attractive natural beauty are huge drivers of economic growth and social well-being. Denial that there is any need for conservation will only harm the economy in the future.
Entrepreneurs and conservationists who work together in a purposeful, ethical way using common sense can achieve great social and economic progress that is sustainable and beneficial to the people and the planet.

The Power of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

Many conservation organizations see tourism as one of the sectors with the greatest potential for linking conservation to economic development. ( IUCN-Kouni Group) Tourism is the largest industry in the world and growing fast. “For wealthy westerners, travel is now an addiction” (The Economist).
Tourism generates over $2 trillion in spending, $730 billion in earnings and 6.5 million full-time jobs while growing 4-5% annually regardless of war, disease, or terrorism. ( Needham, RRMP at OSU).

Tourism can also be harmful. Mass Tourism can lead to overcrowding, congestion, and overuse causing pollution, waste and degradation of natural resources.

On the other hand,
carefully developed sustainable tourism and eco-tourism can empower local people while providing financial and conservation benefits. In fact, the outdoor recreation industry can provide much greater employment and economic opportunities to a community and have a much lighter impact on local environments than industries that focus on extraction of natural resources. Employment related to recreational activities can exceed employment related to resource exploitation by more than 5 times (Kuenzi and McNeely) . Wildlife related recreation (fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing) on National Forest lands provide a significant benefit to state and regional economies throughout the nation. In 1996, wildlife related recreation created 238,800 full time jobs and generated $21million in state sales and income taxes (USFW).
In 2012, outdoor recreation contributed $646 billion in consumer spending to the US economy and more than $39.7 billion in tax revenue while creating 6.1 million American jobs(OIA 2012). Outdoor recreation contributes nearly twice the positive economic impact than the automotive, pharmaceutical and oil industries.

How to build a sustainable outdoor recreation industry

In order to build a successful outdoor industry there must be a focus on customer satisfaction as well as environmental conservation
. “Satisfied customers are believed to affect the long-term viability of the organization in the competitive business environment and also for enhancing experience of visitors with attraction.” (IJMMR, Vol. 4, No. 1) The integrity of the facilities and natural resources are crucial to customer satisfaction. The Association of British Travel Agents found that
one in three travelers now believe that vacation products should have an environmental rating. ABTA’s study also showed that 19% of these travelers were willing to pay more for it.
Nature-based businesses are dependent on clean water and untrammeled natural landscapes(CNBT-BC).

Customer service, empathy, and local knowledge are also extremely important
. Training is a key factor to the success of any organization and staff must be provided with proper training in terms of communicating with guests (IJMMR, Vol. 4, No. 1).
Enhancing quality of interpretation at visitor centers, attractions, and on tours is a major opportunity area for nature tourism. People learn better when they are using as many senses as appropriate. It is generally recognized that people retain 10% of what they hear, 30% of what they read, 50% of what they see, and 90% of what they do (TNSW p5).

Most of all, building a sustainable economy that will have long-term benefits for the people and the environment requires the cooperation and teamwork of the entire community. Every nature reserve needs a management plan and a dedicated community of volunteers to care for it.

People want to live healthy, vibrant lives in an area where they can enjoy themselves in the outdoors. This can be achieved through cooperation between both the business and conservation community.

Other Related Articles:

http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/29/guides-are-portals-to-the-outdoor-world-lets-give-them-the-support-they-need/#%21

http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/author/averystonich/

http://www.wengerna.com/blog/outdoor-recreation-americas-overlooked-economic-giant/

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