Report: Underfunded wildlife refuges return nearly $5 for each taxpayer dollar

Hikers at Alaska’s Selawik National Wildlife Refuge.

Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, flickr.

A new report finds that although national wildlife refuges offer a huge return on investment, they have been continually underfunded by Congress.

According to the report, which was published by a coalition of conservation, outdoor recreation and scientific groups, nearly 47.5 million people visited national wildlife refuges last year, supporting about 35,000 jobs and generating $2.4 billion for local economies.

But funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System has not reflected its importance to local communities. These funding shortfalls came to a head in the fall of 2013 when months of partisan squabbling in Congress led to a government shutdown that closed refuges and other federal lands for weeks, an event that was symptomatic of a broader trend that has seen wildlands perpetually strapped for cash and suffering from severe operations and maintenance backlogs. The new report asks that Congress increase funding for refuges in fiscal year 2015 to begin to address this shortfall and fund visitor programs, facility repairs, invasive species removal and other vital work.

A few facts and figures on the National Wildlife Refuge System from the report:

  • 47.5 million: people who visited national wildlife refuges in fiscal year 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
  • 35,000: jobs supported by refuge visitor spending.
  • $4.87: amount returned by refuges in economic output per dollar appropriated to them by Congress (a 388% return on investment)
  • $2.4 billion: amount generated for local economies by national wildlife refuges.
  • $343 million: amount generated in local, county, state and federal tax revenue by refuges
  • $32.3 billion: value of refuges in “ecosystem services” (for example, buffering communities from storms)

Read the report here

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