As a state we tend to think of recreation as a fringe benefit to living here and less as an important industry and economic driver; however, that should change.
Our state leaders need to see recreation as a way to grow small businesses, employ more people and boost revenue.
It just makes sense in a state as rich in recreation as Idaho.
According to a report from the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, the 534,000 people that hunt or fish in Idaho spent $1.02 billion in 2011 with a ripple effect of $1.4 billion.
The report said that's more than the revenue from potatoes, the state's third-highest grossing agriculture product - $914 million.
Hunting and fishing also supported about 15,260 jobs in the state, which is more than each of state's largest private employers, St. Luke's Health System and Micron, the report said.
Those statistics are consistent with, and likely derived from the 2011 national survey of fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation.
That report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed $1.6 billion spent in Idaho during 2011 for "wildlife-related recreation" by people 16 years old or older.
That's a lot of money, but it doesn't include all outdoor recreation. Skiing at Bogus Basin, riding a mountain bike in the Foothills, or water skiing at Lucky Peak aren't considered "wildlife-related recreation," and those are just a few examples.
Idaho's overall tourism business is estimated at around $3 billion annually and creates $438 million in local, state and federal tax revenues, according to Idaho Department of Commerce.
While those are all big numbers, Idaho's "outdoor industry" often gets overlooked because recreation is a large collection of small businesses. You don't see sky scrapers or campuses like you do with Micron or St. Luke's.
Aside from a few big box retail stores like Cabela's, The Sportsman's Warehouse and REI, you see lots of small store fronts, and signs on nondescript buildings at industrial parks.
You also see tackle shops, snowmobile dealers and mom-and-pop sporting goods stores in small towns throughout Idaho.
We love to play outdoors, and many nonresidents join us to play and spend in Idaho.
That spreads money made by higher-wage earners in urban areas into small towns, which turn into wages and tips.
At some point, Idaho needs to take stock of its recreation industry and figure out how to protect and enhance it.
I'm not suggesting anything radical like converting the whole state into a giant theme park, or turning all the backcountry into wilderness.
But I think it is important to recognize the whole gamut of outdoor recreation and protect it, whether it's campgrounds, rivers, lakes, marinas, trails, parks, backcountry, or other places that make people want to get outdoors, have fun and spend money.
It also makes sense to enhance some of that recreation for economic growth.
It's not a radical concept. At the Outdoor Retailer trade show in January, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert unveiled the state's "Outdoor Recreation Vision."
According to a release from Herbert's office, the document "emphasizes the value of outdoor recreation to the economy and quality of life in Utah and outlines guiding principles and a series of significant policy recommendations to enhance outdoor recreation and related industries for the people of Utah and visitors."
"Outdoor recreation is an essential component of Utah's quality of life and state identity," Herbert said in the release. "Whether it's backpacking in remote areas, skiing on the greatest snow on earth, fishing in a mountain stream, or enjoying a family picnic in a neighborhood park, it is part of what defines us as Utahns."
Outdoor Industry Association helped develop the document and said it is "more than just a vision for outdoor recreation in Utah - it is an economic strategy that can benefit every state in the nation."
Here are some highlights of Utah's outdoor recreation document:
It outlines the vision statement and guiding principles that Utah embraces for outdoor recreation.
It provides more than 40 recommendations under seven main areas of focus to improve the recreational experience in Utah.
It outlines what makes Utah an exceptional place for outdoor recreation.
It provides a detailed list of facilities and programs currently in place to help residents and visitors fully enjoy what the state has to offer.
It lists the many benefits, such as quality of life, economic and health that are associated with outdoor recreation.
I'm not suggesting Idaho just take Utah's vision and copy it. We're a unique state, and we have different priorities and goals.
But if we want to protect and enhance our recreation and economic opportunities, now is a good time to start thinking about how we can accomplish it.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors
Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Thursday. Look for Zimo next week.