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Analysis: Public Lands Bring Big Benefits to PA

About 4 million people visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area every year. (James Hicks/NPS)
About 4 million people visit the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area every year. (James Hicks/NPS)
July 17, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Public lands, national parks and monuments add billions of dollars to the economy and create thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, according to a recent analysis.

Saying their size and number interfere with development, the Trump administration ordered a review of 27 national monuments to either shrink or eliminate protected areas.

In response, congressional Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee released a state-by-state fact sheet on the economic impact of public lands.

It shows that in Pennsylvania, 19 national parks attract 11 million visitors a year, increasing the state's economic output by almost $750 million.

Joe Demalderis, owner of Cross Current Guide Service, says that's a lifeline in some rural parts of the state.

"The land is valuable for the local economies because of the tourism it develops, and it's in areas where there really isn't much else for the local people, for their economy," he points out.

Overall, outdoor recreation generated more than $21 billion in consumer spending in Pennsylvania in 2012.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, the ranking Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee, notes that, in his home state of New Mexico, two areas designated as national monuments may be threatened by reduction or elimination.

"We have seen tourism go up, we've seen visitation go up, we've seen local gross receipts and lodgers' taxes and business development because of these monuments,” he points out. “So to turn that back would be an enormous mistake."

According to the fact sheet, every tax dollar invested in the National Park Service yields $10 in returns.

Demalderis says protecting areas such as the 35 miles of river in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area means more than figures on a ledger sheet.

"People who live in metropolitan areas have places they can go and decompress, and go back to their everyday life and be more productive at what they do,” he states.

The Department of the Interior is expected to issue a decision on the 27 national monuments currently under review by late August.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA