So just how important is recreational fishing to the overall economy? If a new piece of federal legislation makes its way through the U.S. Senate and the president’s desk before the year is out, buying tackle, using your boat and fishing for striped bass may be recognized in years to come as part of our gross domestic product (GDP).

On November 14, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved bipartisan legislation authored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) that would direct the Department of Commerce to assess and quantify the contributions to job creation and consumer spending of the outdoor and recreation industry.

The Outdoor Recreation’s Economic Contributions (REC) Act would ensure that outdoor recreation jobs are counted by the federal government and would be measured as part of the overall GDP, for the first time ever.

“Vermont has unparalleled natural beauty that provides Vermonters and tourists year-round opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors,” the press release issued by Rep. Welch stated, adding “The consumer spending that results from that outdoor recreation is an important boost to Vermont’s bottom-line. This legislation will ensure we have reliable data to accurately quantify the benefits of this key driver of our economy.”

The REC Act (H.R.4665) directs the Secretary of Commerce, through the Bureau of Economic Analysis, to "conduct an assessment and analysis of the outdoor recreation economy of the United States." A temporary pilot program was enacted by the Secretary of the Interior in April, so Congress’s action was needed to make sure that the outdoor economy—and its estimated 6 million jobs and $646 billion in economic activity—receives official government recognition for years to come.

Some believe that by officially calculating the economic benefits of outdoor recreational activities like fishing and boating, it could help demonstrate the importance of improved science and data collection, or investing in better access and infrastructure to promote more fishing opportunities.

According to a release from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), recreational boating is a significant part of the outdoor economy, representing billions of dollars in economic activity and hundreds of thousands of jobs. “NMMA is an active part of the team that will work with the Bureau of Economic Analysis to shape how outdoor recreation is defined and ensure our reach and impact are recognized,” the release stated.

“Congressman Welch appreciates the multiple benefits that outdoor recreational activities bring to the economy. Our economy and the environment don’t need to be at odds with each other, and this legislation will help to demonstrate that. At a time when it’s never been more important to recognize the value of swimmable, drinkable, and fishable waters, this legislation couldn’t come soon enough,” said Executive Director of Lake Champlain International James Ehlers.

Welch introduced the REC Act in March with Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). Although the REC Act had bipartisan support from 13 republicans and 12 democrats, the only other co-sponsor from The Fisherman Magazine’s core regional coverage area is Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA).

A companion bill sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) passed earlier this year out of the Senate Commerce Committee (S.2219), with the full Senate hopeful to vote on the legislation before the holidays so that it can be signed into law by President Obama.

On November 28, 2016, the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016 was passed in the U.S. Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent and sent to the President for his signature. It was signed into law by President Obama on December 8, 2016.