Photo © Sam Stukel

Economic Contributions

Outdoor and wildlife-associated recreation is more than tradition. They are also significant contributors to the nation’s economy. Each year millions of people participate in these recreational pursuits across the country, and their spending supports the economy at all levels from shops in small communities to major manufacturers.

Nationally, outdoor recreation (camping, fishing, hunting, paddling, bicycling, snow sports, hiking, climbing, and wildlife viewing) is estimated to contribute $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting nearly 6.5 million jobs.1 Looking specifically at hunting, fishing and wildlife watching, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation revealed over 90 million U.S. residents participated in wildlife-related recreation, spending $145 billion on these activities. 2

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) has historically relied on estimates from national surveys to determine the economic effects of wildlife-associated and outdoor recreation. In 2016, however, GFP commissioned a study to specifically estimate the economic activity generated by hunting, fishing, state park visitation and other outdoor recreation activities in South Dakota. Large numbers of hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists spend many days enjoying South Dakota’s diverse outdoor recreation opportunities.

  • Both residents and non-residents who visited state parks in 2016, fished, hunted, trapped, boated or viewed wildlife in South Dakota recreated for a combined total of 18.6 million days.
  • Participating in these activities typically involves spending money on travel, supplies, and equipment, making the annual amount of these expenditures a significant contributor to the state’s economy.
  • Collectively anglers, hunters, trappers, wildlife viewers, boaters, state park visitors, and snowmobilers spend $1.3 billion in South Dakota annually in support of these activities.

The top three activities accounting for nearly 90 percent of the $1.3 billion are hunting ($683 million), fishing ($271 million) and state park visitation ($212 million).

The money spent, however, is only one part of the total economic effect associated with wildlife-related and outdoor recreation. The $1.3 billion spent by those enjoying South Dakota’s outdoor resources has a significant effect on the state’s economy, generating directly and indirectly nearly $1.9 billion in economic activity throughout the state. 3

This activity supports an estimated 18,000 full and part-time jobs which provide $520 million of income.

  • In addition, it contributes over $970 million to the state’s GDP, and generates over $83 million in tax revenue for state and local governments.

Wildlife-related and outdoor recreation has long been a fundamental part of the South Dakota experience. In pursuing their passions, those who participate in these activities create a significant economic engine, supporting thousands of jobs and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in labor income and growth within South Dakota’s economy. These traditions and pastimes are vital to the many businesses and communities in every corner of the state.


  1. Outdoor Industry Foundation 2006. The Active Outdoor Recreation Economy. Boulder, CO.
  2. U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
  3. Southwick Associates 2017. Economic Impact of Outdoor Activities Managed by South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Fernandina Beach, FL.