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‘Quiet’ Recreation on Public Lands Generates $2.8 Billion

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is part of New Mexico's 13.5 million acres of public lands available for recreation. (kurtlichtenstein/iStockphoto)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is part of New Mexico's 13.5 million acres of public lands available for recreation. (kurtlichtenstein/iStockphoto)
April 1, 2016

SANTE FE, N.M. - Public lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management host millions of visitors, each year participating in non-motorized or "quiet" recreation activities, generating $2.8 billion and supporting 25,000 jobs for the U.S. economy, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Kristin Lee, project director with the independent firm ECONorthwest that conducted the study, said nearly two-thirds of visitors to BLM lands engage in non-motorized activities such as camping, hiking, hunting and fishing.

"This study shows that not only is there a lot of quiet recreation happening," she said. "In fact, more than half of all recreation happening on BLM lands is quiet recreation. This recreation provides a lot of local economic opportunities, and contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. economy."

The study, which included a dozen western states including New Mexico, found in 2014 that quiet visitors to BLM lands spent nearly $2 billion in communities within 50 miles of where they visit. Lee said an economic ripple effect is created in surrounding towns when people eat at local restaurants, and buy supplies, gas and groceries.

The report showed that in New Mexico, there were 2.3 million visits to the state's public lands with an overall spending impact of $173 million, supporting more than 1,700 jobs.

Judy Calman, staff attorney with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, said the study will be a valuable tool for groups like hers.

"This is going to be really useful to conservation groups across the West who try to make these arguments," she said, "that having protected land and public land next to communities is economically beneficial, in addition to being beneficial spiritually and, in general, recreationally."

There are 246 million acres of BLM-managed public lands across the United States - 13.5 million in New Mexico alone.

The full study can be read online at pewtrusts.org.

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Support for this reporting comes from Pew Charitable Trusts.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - NM