IDAHO FALLS – Amid pressure in some states to transfer federal public land to state management and control, a study commissioned by several wildlife-related groups finds that federal land contributes billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to western states’ economies.
The independent study quantifies the economic contributions of wildlife-related recreation on Bureau of Land Management lands in 12 western states, including Idaho and Washington. The study’s findings were released last Thursday and show that BLM-administered public lands (about 246 million acres) result in more than $3 billion in total economic output. BLM lands support 26,500 jobs and generate more than $1 billion in salaries and wages and produce $421 million in federal, state and local tax revenue, the study found.
“The economic value of outdoor recreation opportunities on America’s multiple-use public lands has always been part of our argument against transferring ownership to the states,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’ll continue to work with federal land managers to carefully plan for the balanced use of public lands through a process that gives the public a role in decision-making.”
The report focuses on three main activities: hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.
“Our research found that recreation associated with fish and wildlife on BLM lands is a significant jobs generator, providing income for rural communities for decades with minimal investment compared to other industries,” said Rob Southwick of Southwick Associates. “Smart business and planning call for managing BLM’s fish and wildlife-related resources as important economic assets.”
The study was done in behalf of The Pew Charitable Trusts, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wildlife Management Institute, Trout Unlimited, Archery Trade Association and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association.
“States are under tremendous and increasing pressure to find revenue wherever they can,” said Matt Smythe, a spokesman for the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “But the fact that wildlife-related activity on BLM lands contributes over $3 billion to the economies of the 12 western states included in the study is proof positive that there are far better alternatives – from an economic and environmental-health standpoint – than simply selling off public land for the short-term gain of private interests, at a long-term cost to our citizens.”
Fosburgh said his advocacy group is not as concerned about wholesale transfer of federal lands to state ownership under the President Trump administration, “but we’ve urged the sportsmen’s community not to rest on its laurels. We need just as much enthusiasm for keeping public lands well-managed as we did for keeping public lands public.”
In Idaho, the study found that hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing generated $85 million in salaries and wages and $295 million in sales from BLM lands in 2016.
In Washington, the study found that hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing generated $8 million in salaries and wages and $26 million in sales.
In Wyoming, those activities generated $88 million in salaries and wages and $331 million in sales being generated from BLM lands in 2016.
“These findings confirm what many of us have known all along: BLM public lands are critically important for public hunting and fishing in America, and these activities are good for businesses and local communities alike,” said Christy Plumer, chief conservation officer with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This report should be a foundational resource as decision-makers consider the economic effects of wildlife habitat conservation on BLM public lands.”
The study included Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, all of which have extensive BLM lands.
“You can’t put a price on the importance of public lands for our outdoor traditions, but this study shows that you can put a price on the economic impact of these special places,” said Corey Fisher, Trout Unlimited’s public lands policy director. “We’ve long known that public lands are critical to the health of our trout and salmon fisheries, and we now know just how valuable fishing on these lands is for the bottom line of businesses large and small.”
Eli Francovich contributed to this report.
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