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Report: Non-motorized Recreation Boosts Colo. Economy

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The Bureau of Land Management is considering how to best manage activities on public lands in the Eastern Colorado Region, including "quiet" or non-motorized recreation. (Getty Images)
The Bureau of Land Management is considering how to best manage activities on public lands in the Eastern Colorado Region, including "quiet" or non-motorized recreation. (Getty Images)
June 21, 2017

DENVER - Low-impact outdoor activities such as hiking and camping make a big impression on Colorado's economy, according to a new report.

In 2015, according to the study, non-motorized or "quiet" recreation on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in eastern Colorado generated more than $54 million in direct spending. Kristin Lee, a researcher with ECONorthwest, said that money ends up circulating across the state and adds more than $40 million in worker salaries, wages and benefits.

"You know, as they spend money on things like food and gas, and lodging and equipment," she said, "those expenditures have ripple effects - in both the local economies near BLM lands, and then in the regional economies across Colorado."

The report, commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts, came as the BLM is developing a draft Resource Management Plan for its Eastern Colorado Region. The agency's Royal Gorge office oversees some 658,000 acres of public land.

John Sztukowski, a coordinator for Wildlands Conservation who works along the Arkansas River corridor, said he's hopeful the BLM will keep some tracts of land free from the roar of all-terrain-vehicle and snowmobile motors. He added that so-called quiet recreation is critical to the region's businesses.

"It includes mountain biking and rock climbing, and boating and rafting, and kayaking, which we have a lot of on the Arkansas," he said, "and it brings a lot of folks in - not only from Colorado, but around the country - into our small towns."

While people always will want more space for their favorite outdoor activities, Luis Benitez, director of Colorado's Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, said all forms of recreation contribute to the economic well-being of a state that depends on tourism dollars.

"I think the larger goal can and should be towards that spirit of 'how do we work together' to ensure that we're all capable of recreating the way we want to recreate," he said.

As long as outdoor enthusiasts - quiet or otherwise - remain focused on conserving publicly owned lands, he said, there should be plenty of common ground for everyone.

The report is online at pewtrusts.org.

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

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO