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Skiing Down the Slope

Economic Impacts of outdoor recreation and tourism in Maine

Many of the primary drivers of Maine’s economy: outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing, tourism, etc. were all founded upon an assumption of a relatively stable climate. As Maine’s climate warms and becomes less predictable, Mainers who depend upon these sectors of our economy will increasingly be faced with new challenges.


Why will tourism in Maine be adversely impacted by climate change?

Because Maine tourism depends so much on nature, climate change will have an impact on many of these activities. For example, the season and opportunities for skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling will decrease, but the camping and hiking seasons will lengthen. Some of Maine’s iconic wildlife, such as moose, brook trout and loons, which attract visitors to the state, may be harder to find.

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Will unreliable Maine seasons impact winter recreation?

Skiing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding all rely upon snow (both natural snowfall and temperatures cold enough to make snow).  But according to long-term measurements from the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation in the White Mountain National Forest, the region is seeing increased average winter air temperatures, less snow, more sleet and freezing rain.

In addition to shorter seasons for many of Maine’s traditional forms of winter recreation, winter whiplash and the increasing unreliability of winter weather means that seasonal events and activities, many of which are important to local economies, often have to be rescheduled or canceled altogether.

Maine’s Camden Snow Bowl, Mt. Abram, and Shawnee Peak are among 108 ski resorts nationally that have signed the Climate Declaration to show support for national action on climate change.

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In January of 2021, the second annual Aroostook County Sled Run had to be postponed due to lack of snow on local snowmobile trails. Read the full article by Melissa Lizotte.

How will recreational fishing in Maine be impacted by climate change?

Extreme weather and warmer temperatures linked to climate change will negatively impact a number of Maine’s long held outdoor traditions such as fishing and hunting.

Climate change is exacerbating threats to the freshwater ecosystems that support fish and fishing activity. Habitat for many native fish species is negatively impacted when air temperatures increase, waters warm and oxygen levels decline. Droughts lead to reduced stream flows, and climate-driven invasive species may damage riparian vegetation that provides shade to help keep streams cool. Under such conditions, fish, especially cold-water species such as brook trout, are increasingly threatened. Impacts on the entire species could be significant, as Maine is currently home to 97% of the country’s wild brook trout waters.

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Ice fishing will also be negatively impacted as rising temperatures cause shorter periods of ice-cover on lakes, and a shorter ice-fishing season. If temperatures continue to rise, ice fishing derbies could be at risk of being canceled in communities throughout Maine that rely on the economic benefit provided during the winter months.

Freshwater fishing currently contributes more than $300 million to Maine’s economy annually. As threats to fish increase and fishing seasons shift,  this sector of Maine’s economy could be seriously  impacted.


Sugarloaf Mountain Resort is going carbon neutral by 2030

Boyne Resorts (parent company of Sugarloaf) announced a renewable energy purchase commitment with CMS Enterprises, a CMS Energy subsidiary, that entirely offsets electric energy consumption at its resorts and facilities throughout North America.

WS: Hunting & Fishing


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Source: Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, Lake Pennesseewassee ice-out dates, recorded back to 1874 by members of the Weary Club in Norway

Shorter periods of ice cover on Maine lakes

Ice-outs are now happening at Moosehead Lake one month earlier than in the mid-1800s. Other lakes such as Rangeley, Mooselookmeguntic, Richardson, Sebago, Grand, Cobbosecontee, and Damariscotta Lakes are on average icing-out two to four weeks earlier than they did in the late 1800s.

SURVEY123 DATA COLLECTION AND DATA PRESENTATION  Lake Stewards of Maine collects information about when lakes freeze over in the fall or winter (ice-in), and when the ice melts in the spring (ice-out). Historically most people have only noted ice-out, but increasingly scientists are recognizing the importance of knowing how long lakes are under ice cover, and therefore ice-in is becoming more widely tracked as well.

How will hunting in Maine be threatend by climate change?

Northern mammals like moose, that thrive in cooler climates, are in jeopardy due to rising temperatures that have allowed ticks and tick-borne diseases to expand into Maine. In 2014 moose hunting permits in Maine were cut by 25% because of the explosion of tick infestations. In 2015, they were cut another 10%.

White-tailed deer are vulnerable to hemorrhagic disease, which often leads to death. Prevalence of this disease is expected to increase as climate change brings warmer summers, longer droughts, and more intense rain events. In Maine, expected losses may be anywhere from 25-50% of the local deer population.

Due to earlier-than-normal seasonal temperature changes, animal patterns that hunters and trappers have come to expect no longer match the official hunting and trapping seasons. The Maine Legislature is considering a bill to adjust beaver trapping season in response to this climate-related mismatch.


Ducks are losing much of the habitat they use for breeding every spring. The Prairie Pothole Region (which includes north-central regions of the US, produces 50% of the ducklings found across the North American continent. Scientists expect this region to become drier with lower water volumes, thereby decreasing the chances of successful breeding. Duck migration patterns are also being altered due to warming temperatures. The duck hunting season now starts later, and there are fewer birds coming to Maine from the north.


"Maine’s outdoor traditions are at risk due to warming waters and more extreme weather linked to climate change." NRCM Climate Sportsmen Fact Sheet by Bonnie Barclay, 2020.

How will hiking and backpacking be effected?

Hiking and backpacking in Maine will be increasingly threatened by wildfires, drought, more excessively hot and humid weather, and other factors that will limit both the hiking experience and the stewardship of trails. 

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CLIMATE IMPACT ON HIKERS "Access to the places we love to hike, both close to home and farther away, are impacted by climate change with wildfires, drought, increased temperatures, and other factors limiting the hiking experience and the stewardship of trails."

How does Maine's outdoor recreation effect the economy?

According to a US Department of Commerce 2019 report, Maine’s outdoor recreation economy generates approximately 40,000 jobs, and 2.9 billion dollars to Maine’s economy annually. Source: US Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis Outdoor Recreation Economic Report for Maine, 2019


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