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Study: Public Lands Generate Money, Jobs for Arizona, U.S.

Saguaro National Park near Tucson is part of Arizona's 12.2 million acres of public lands available for recreation. (aimintang/iStockphoto)
Saguaro National Park near Tucson is part of Arizona's 12.2 million acres of public lands available for recreation. (aimintang/iStockphoto)
April 1, 2016

PHOENIX - Public lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management host millions of visitors each year who participate in non-motorized or "quiet" recreation activities. These generate $2.8 billion and support 25,000 jobs for the U.S. economy, according to a study commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Kristin Lee, project director with the independent firm ECONorthwest, which 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," Lee said. "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."

The study, which included Arizona and other Western states, found in 2014 that 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.

The report shows that Arizona gets 3.5 million visits each year to its public lands, with an overall spending impact of $162 million, supporting almost 1,600 jobs.

Ken Rait director of the Pew Charitable Trusts' Public Lands Program, said the report should help leaders and others in the West see public lands in a different light.

"BLM lands have been historically 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 U.S., 12 million are in Arizona.

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 - AZ