Montana Public Radio

Governor's Office of Outdoor Recreation

Cars fill a parking lot at Snowbowl mountain April 01,2020. Guidelines for safe recreation during the coronavirus pandemic include social distancing and toning down the risks in order to protect first responders and preserve hospital beds.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

According to a 2018 report from Headwaters Economics, nearly 90 percent of Montanans participate in outdoor recreation for physical and mental well-being. But safety concerns amid the novel coronavirus outbreak are complicating how people get outside.

Participants in the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation’s outdoor lab gather around the fire at Whitefish Lake State Park, Oct. 10, 2019.
Aaron Bolton

The Montana Governor’s Office is searching for new ways to tap into the state’s outdoor economy — an economic engine already fueled by more than $7 billion spent in the state each year. The Office of Outdoor Recreation hosted what it billed as its first innovation lab in Whitefish, Thursday.

Montana's outdoor recreation activities.
Outdoor Recreation And Montana's Economy report, Headwaters Economics.

A growing set of business owners, non-profits and agencies in Montana are trying to expand what we think of when we talk about the economic value of the outdoors here.

Marne Hayes is the executive director for Business for Montana’s Outdoors, a group that advocates for preserving Montana’s outdoor heritage. She says Montana itself — its rivers, forests and wide open spaces — offers a competitive advantage for attracting new businesses and a talented workforce to Montana.