Special Issue - Call for Papers


Submission Deadline: August 1, 2023

Guest Editors

Melissa Weddell, PhD Danny Twilley, PhD Joel Hartter, PhD Bruce Martin, PhD

A forthcoming (second quarter 2024) special issue of the Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership will explore topics in the outdoor recreation industry (manufacturers, retailers, tour operators, outfitters, hospitality, etc.), vibrant communities, and public lands as it relates to economic development. Authors are invited to submit regular papers, essays, practices, commentaries, book reviews, and research notes.

In practice, the components of an outdoor economy have been utilized for some time to support economic and social prosperity along with environmental protection. As the outdoor economy has continued to evolve, greater emphasis has been placed on its potential for promoting positive social, health, education, and economic outcomes, especially in communities that have fallen into decline due to deindustrialization. To realize this potential, there has been growing interest at the community, state, and federal levels to better coordinate efforts to leverage the outdoor economy to promote community revitalization. One key example is the development of state-level offices of outdoor recreation, with Utah establishing the first office of outdoor recreation in 2013 followed by 18 additional states developing similar offices since then. Another key example is the passage of the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016, directing the Department of Commerce to assess and analyze the outdoor recreation economy in the United States (Highfill & Franks, 2019). Based on this mandate, the Bureau of Economic Analysis produced its first report of the outdoor economy’s annual contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of the United States in 2018 (Sec 2. H.R. 4665, 2016 Sec 2, 2016; Highfill et al., 2018). Another example of this growing interest is the launch of multiple sector specific centers and academic degree programs in various institutions of higher education in the United States.

The role of the outdoor economy in the national landscape of economic development was further elevated with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act of 2020, which among other things, fully funded, for the first time, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Through the American Recovery Act, the Economic Development Authority received, for the first time, grant funding specifically for Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Development. Additionally, in 2022, the federal government established an inter-agency working group for outdoor recreation. Over the past decade, outdoor recreation and nature-based activities have increased dramatically, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Beery et al., 2021; Koop, 2020; Randler et al., 2020). These milestones are strong indicators of the role outdoor recreation has had in economic and community development and advancement of outdoor economy policy in recent years.

The purpose of this special issue is to advance in the U.S. and internationally an understanding of and the discoursearound the outdoor economy’s role in asset-based economic development through the lens of the outdoor recreation industry, vibrant communities, and public lands. This special issue offers an opportunity for further examination of challenges, barriers, opportunities, and outcomes related to the outdoor economy. Ideally, this special issue will highlight diverse approaches and applications of the outdoor economy. Submissions for this special issue may wish to address topics such as the following:

  • Outdoor recreation economic impact studies
  • The role of outdoor recreation in community development
  • The role of outdoor recreation in nature-based tourism
  • Public policy and how it influences or prohibits access to public lands
  • Creation and acknowledgement of the outdoor recreation industry by governments, non-profits, NGOs, and the academy
  • Analyses of workforce and talent pipeline trends and issues for the outdoor economy
  • Perceptions of outdoor recreation-related tourism development
  • The role outdoor recreation plays in quality of life and talent attraction
  • Outdoor recreation business development including the role it plays in business attraction
  • The development of outdoor recreation infrastructure
  • Outdoor recreation industry trends and topics such as retail, guiding and outfitters, product development, supply chain, housing and lodging in outdoor communities, etc.
  • Attributes for positive user experiences on public lands
  • Industry and market analysis/studies that help provide context and clarity into outdoor users
  • Critical analyses of the impacts of outdoor recreation and tourism in communities and on public lands leveraging the industry for community and economic development.
  • Issues of access and representation in the outdoor recreation industry

All submitted manuscripts will undergo a blind peer-review process and should adhere to the author guidelines outlined in the Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership. Manuscripts can be submitted through the Sagamore-Venture journal management system. Instructions for both are provided at http://js.sagamorepub.com/jorel/about/submissions#authorGuidelines .


Interested authors should direct questions to the guest editors:

Melissa Weddell melissa.weddell@unmontan.edu

Danny Twilley  danny.twilley@mail.wvu.edu

Joel Hartter joel.hartter@colorado.edu

Bruce Martin bruce.martin@ohio.edu