Report Highlights Economic Value of Conserving Public Lands, Recreation
DENVER – A new report shows that conserving the Rocky Mountain West’s vast tracts of public lands has paid off in job, population and income growth as fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation have diversified and helped sustain the economies of rural communities throughout the region.
The report released Tuesday by Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development also stresses that conserving public lands buoys local economies by drawing retirees, business owners and professionals seeking a high quality of life.
“Conserving Lands and Prosperity: Seeking a Balance Between Conservation and Development in the Rocky Mountain West” shows that areas with higher percentages of lands managed for conservation and recreation experience higher job and population growth and report higher per capita incomes than other areas.
The findings of the report, produced by Southwick Associates for SFRED, underscore the need to balance responsible development of public lands with conserving fish and wildlife habitat, valuable backcountry and the great Western landscapes that draw people from around the world, the sportsmen’s coalition said.
“The Southwick report validates the simple fact that conservation of wildlife and natural places not only enriches our souls, but our wallets as well, in terms of sustained job creation and financial abundance – and reliably so, when compared to boom-bust energy development,” said Jim Lyon, the National Wildlife Federation’s vice president for conservation policy.
The National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited are lead partners in the sportsmen’s coalition.
The report includes a case study of Cody, Wyo., where about 10 percent of jobs are associated with fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing. Spending related to those activities generates an estimated $30.1 million annually, according to the report.
“Managing federal public lands for fish and wildlife diversity and abundance – as well as ensuring opportunities for quality hunting and fishing – are critically important practices that will attract sportsmen to rural areas and boost the economy,” said Ed Arnett, director of the TRCP Center for Responsible Energy Development. “In contrast to the boom-bust cycles of many other industries, the outdoor industry equals long-term, sustainable economic benefits. These new studies clearly demonstrate the power of sustainably managed natural resources and the economic impact of sportsmen.”
New businesses, skilled professionals and other individuals drawn to the Rocky Mountain West have expanded the economy, helping to ease the effects of downturns in the more cyclical extractive industries often associated with the West, according to the report.
“It makes good economic sense to find a balance between conservation of hunting and fishing opportunities and development of resources on Western public lands,” said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited. “This report clearly indicates that finding the appropriate balance is one of the keys to a healthy economy and environment in the West.”
Jeff Mead, a business owner from Grand Junction, Colo., understands the importance of balance. He acknowledges the role the energy industry plays in western Colorado but stresses that public lands are key to his business, Mamm Peaks Outfitters, and others like it.
“Our family has been in the outfitting business for 26 years. I’d like my children and grandchildren to assume stewardship and sustain respect for our environment and conservation of wildlife and resources,” Mead said. “Public lands that provide wildlife habitat and an opportunity for people to participate in hunting, fishing and other practices that support conservation are crucial for that to happen.”
Access the report, fact sheets and testimonials from outdoor business owners.
Contact SFRED to listen to a May 22 teleconference detailing the report findings and spotlighting Western business owners.
Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited.