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Quiet Recreation on Public Lands in Utah Brings Money, Jobs

The Arches National Park is part of Utah's 30 million acres of public lands available for recreation. (zrfphoto/iStockphoto)
The Arches National Park is part of Utah's 30 million acres of public lands available for recreation. (zrfphoto/iStockphoto)
April 1, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY - Non-motorized or "quiet" recreation on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management adds $2.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supports almost 25,000 jobs, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Kristin Lee, project director for 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 - in fact, nearly 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," she said.

Utah and other western states are part of the study. In 2014, it said, quiet visitors to BLM lands spent nearly $2 billion in communities within 50 miles of the sites. Lee said an economic ripple effect is created in surrounding towns when people eat at local restaurants and buy supplies, gas and groceries.

In Utah, the report showed, the 4.4 million visitors each year to the state's public lands have an overall spending impact of $270 million, supporting almost 2,500 jobs. Ken Rait, director of Pew Charitable Trusts' Public Lands Program, said the report should help leaders and others in western states see public lands in a different light.

"BLM lands have historically been viewed as treasure troves for those who want to drill, mine or graze their natural resources," he said. "It's only really in the last decade or so that a different kind of treasure has been discovered on BLM lands - those of conservation and recreational value."

Of the 246 million acres of BLM-managed public lands across the United States, 30 million acres are in Utah.

The study is online at pewtrusts.org.

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Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT