Fact Sheet

Outdoor Engagement



NCEL Point of Contact

Dylan McDowell
Executive Director



Outdoor engagement presents a unique opportunity to serve diverse constituencies because it provides mental and physical health benefits, supports economic development, and connects communities. Time spent outside has been shown to reduce stress, help treat ADHD in children, and ameliorate PTSD symptoms in veterans. However, there is increasing recognition that these benefits aren’t distributed equally, and states are working to ensure nature access is equitable and available for all communities. Outdoor recreation can also provide new economic opportunities for community development and several states have established Offices of Outdoor Recreation to better coordinate these efforts. 

Key Points

Key Point 1

There is a growing body of research demonstrating the physical and mental benefits of outdoor recreation and time in nature. (Children and Nature Network)

Key Point 2

The outdoor recreation economy consists of $788 billion in consumer spending and 5.2 million direct American jobs. (Outdoor Industry Association)

Key Point 3

Parks in communities of color are half the size of parks serving majority white populations and five times as crowded. (Trust for Public Lands)


There are several legislative approaches to promoting outdoor engagement and increasing to nature, including: 

  • Developing grant programs for outdoor access, such as No Child Left Inside programs in Washington and Minnesota and Outdoor Equity Funds in New Mexico and Colorado
  • Expand outdoor learning opportunities, such as Outdoor School in Oregon (SB439) and licensed Outdoor Preschool in Washington (SB5151). 
  • Promoting outdoor wellness such as a New York Outdoor Rx Act (A8094A), which requires a review of veterans’ abilities to access state parks, lands, and facilities
  • Increasing access to parks, such as Nevada AB385 that grants students ages 9 to 11 free entry to state parks.


NCEL Resources

Online Resources

The Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook

Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook featuring a policy library and case studies.

Go to resource
The Children and Nature Network Research Library

The Children and Nature Network research library regarding the benefits of time in nature.

Go to resource
The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable Rural Economic Development Toolkit

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable has developed this toolkit to help your community build an outdoor recreation economy of its own.

Go to resource

Empower State Environmental Champions

Your donation funds the fight for equitable actions that protect the environment and our health.