Gov. Gregoire to outdoor industry: recreation, tourism, volunteerism can boost West's economy

October 5, 2011

PORTLAND -- Gov. Chris Gregoire today called on the private sector to help grow the Western region's recreation and tourism sectors, which will in turn strengthen the West's economy and create jobs. Gregoire is chairman of the Western Governors' Association, and spoke before the Outdoor Industry Association at its annual meeting today.

"We in the West have a God-given asset to show the rest of the country and the world, but the time has come when Washington and other states can no longer afford to do it all," Gregoire said, adding that the public and private sectors have to count on each other "to better connect to a national and worldwide market to show people there is simply no better place to recreate than the Western United States."

The governor said growing recreation and tourism is particularly important to rural communities, where jobs are often even harder to find.

"The Western Governors' Association is working with a wide range of outdoor recreation businesses and organizations to measure the many ways that Western States benefit from all types of outdoor recreation - especially in rural communities," she said. "I can't overstate how much rural communities could use the jobs that would come with more people seeking recreation."

Gregoire and her colleagues launched WGA's Get Out West! initiative this year and created an advisory group of stakeholders to help identify policy barriers and actions related to job creation, increased volunteerism, and greater conservation of and access to open lands and waterways that provide outdoor recreation opportunities.

"As big as drawing in more outdoor enthusiasts and tourists is, Get Out West! is as much about our young people and instilling in them an inherent love and appreciation for the outdoors," she said. "Our children, for whatever reasons, are losing the connection to our great land and our great outdoors. We need to figure out how to get them outside and away from their smart phones to experience the solitude of an empty desert and the roar of a great river.

"With the help of this outstanding group and others, we will work to make sure our open lands and waterways stay that way, and we will engage volunteers in conservation efforts, such as maintaining our trails," Gregoire said, adding that "everybody owns the land and water and everybody is responsible for it."

For more information about Get Out West! visit the WGA Web site at www.westgov.org.

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