National Parks vital to local economies


Did you know that for every $1 of tax money spent by the federal government on the National Park Service, over $10 is returned back to nearby communities? It's hard to think of a smarter investment.

America's National Parks are known internationally for their awesome recreational opportunities, stunning landscape vistas and unique wildlife. But they are also recognized by their neighbors as drivers of their local economy. Visitors spend money to enjoy these special places, which creates jobs in hospitality, recreation, entertainment, retail, transportation, and manufacturing industries.


The National Park Service found that in 2011:

  • That year there were 279 million national park visitors
  • Visitors generated $30.1 billion in economic activity
  • This spending supported 252,000 jobs nationwide
  • $13 billion (over one-third of total spending) went directly into communities within 60 miles of a park

These findings support a greater body of evidence that shows that outdoor recreation continues to contribute to the U.S. economy despite recent economic downturns.

This isn't news to those who live in the West, who already consider public lands to be "essential" to local economies. In fact, protected lands are a major reason that the western economy has outperformed the rest of the U.S. economy in key measures of growth - employment, population, and personal income - during the last four decades.

Yet, despite their importance, National Parks continue to be threatened by federal budget cuts, oil and gas developers, as well as states that want jurisdiction. The Wilderness Society works to prevent these threats from keeping America's treasured public lands protected for communities now and in the future.

Explore Headwaters Economics' interactive graphic below to learn more about national parks' economic impacts:

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