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Wildlife-Related Recreation on BLM Lands Big Economic Driver, Study Shows

In 2016, visits to western BLM lands resulted in 2.8 million fishing trips. (USFWS)
In 2016, visits to western BLM lands resulted in 2.8 million fishing trips. (USFWS)
October 1, 2018

DENVER – Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching on Bureau of Land Management lands generates more than $3 billion in economic activity annually, according to a new Southwick Associates study.

The report is the first to document how these specific activities across 12 western states support tens of thousands of jobs and generate significant local and state tax revenues.

Tim Brass, state policy and field operations director with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, says sportsmen and women have always recognized the value that public lands provide for western communities.

"It's really hard to put a price tag on opportunities to go afield, but this report really helps quantify some of the values and economic impact that those outdoor traditions provide for the state of Colorado," he states.

In Colorado, over 4,500 jobs accounting for more than $200 million in salaries and wages are supported by wildlife related recreation on public BLM lands. Those activities also generate $631 million in sales and add $34 million to state and local tax coffers.

The Trump administration has prioritized energy development on public lands in order to achieve what it calls energy dominance.

Brass says the report shows how managing public lands for multiple uses can pay economic dividends.

Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, the firm conducting the study, says outdoor recreation is a steady and stable source of economic activity, unlike the historically "boom and bust" cycles of energy development.

Since the recreation occurs in rural areas, Southwick says many Americans don't see the economic activity generated.

"So we know the typical trip generates, for a fishing trip, $290 per trip,” he points out. “Typical hunting trip on these lands generates $281 per trip. And wildlife viewing is $161 per trip, mainly based on less equipment demands for wildlife viewing, versus fishing and hunting, but still equally important."

Southwick says wildlife related recreation deserves the same attention as any other major U.S. industry.

In 2016, visits to western BLM lands resulted in over 3 million hunting trips, 2.8 million fishing trips, and over 2 million trips to view wildlife.

These activities generated more than $1 billion in salaries and wages, over 26,000 jobs, and $421 million in federal, state and local tax revenue.

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

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO