Wildlife Refuges Generate More Than $2 Billion A Year, Report Finds
Bird watching, hunting or just picnicking. Whatever the reason, visits to the nation’s 561 wildlife refuges are big business.
A new report says visitors to federal wildlife refuges generate more than $2 billion a year in economic activity, helping to employ more than 35,000 people and produce about $343 million in local, state and federal taxes.
Recreational activities such as birding, hiking and picnicking account for nearly 75 percent of total expenditures at wildlife refuges across the country, the report says, while fishing and hunting account for about 28 percent of expenditures.
The report by the Fish and Wildlife Service says wildlife refuges drew 46.5 million visits in 2011, with three of every four visitors coming from outside the local area. Visitors generated $2.4 billion of economic activity, making refuges a major contributor to ecotourism.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was expected to release the report Tuesday during a visit to a wildlife refuge in Minnesota. The Associated Press obtained a copy in advance.
Jewell said in a statement that the U.S. wildlife refuge system is not only “the world’s greatest network of lands dedicated to wildlife conservation, but it is also a powerful economic engine for local communities across the country.” Refuge visitors come from around the world and support hundreds of local restaurants, hotels and other businesses, she said.
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