Sacramento River Bend Outstanding Natural Area, a California recreation hot-spot managed by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management.
Credit: Bob Wick (BLM), flickr.
Some 443 million recreation visits to public lands managed by the National Park Service and other branches of the Department of the Interior in fiscal year 2015 supported $45 billion in economic output and about 396,000 jobs nationwide. The combined contribution of recreation, conservation, water and renewable energy amounted to $106 billion in economic output, supporting 862,000 jobs.
The economic might of public lands is complementary to—and supportive of—the broader outdoor recreation economy, which generates an estimated $646 billion in consumer spending and supports 6.1 million direct jobs.
Recreation activities on Interior public lands supported $45.5 billion in economic output in 2015.
These numbers demonstrate the great value of conservation, and argue that funding land management agencies should be a priority. Unfortunately, Congress has underfunded many vital conservation programs for years, including those that ensure access to public lands, choosing instead to expend energy on anti-conservation "riders" in the federal appropriations process. Just one percent of the federal budget goes to conservation of our national parks and wild places.
Significant moment for recognizing value of public lands
The timing of Interior's report was significant. It came not only as President Obama and his family prepared to enjoy some of the very same lands that help fuel the American outdoor economy, at Yosemite National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, but the same day the U.S. Forest Service released new guidance to streamline outfitter-guide permitting and make it easier for people to enjoy the outdoors.
Credit: Mathias Erhart, flickr
Throughout this year's centennial celebration of the National Park Service, it has become clear that America's public lands are at a critical juncture. Fringe anti-conservation interests are dragging us into legislative—and literal—skirmishes to try and seize public lands from the people, even as these places remain incredibly popular.
These statistics should serve as a reminder that public lands are good for everyone. Now is the time to stand up and reaffirm the national tradition of responsibly enjoying and sharing them.