Recreation Economic Impact Tool (REIT)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The majority of individuals that visit our national forests participate in quiet, nature based forms of recreation such as hiking, camping, bird watching, and fishing. These same quiet recreationists provide a significant source of revenue for local businesses when they spend money during their visit. It’s important that land managers consider the economic consequences of decisions that they make — such as approving a timber harvest or constructing a dirt bike trail — may result in the displacement of quiet recreationists.

To this end, The Wilderness Society commissioned a Ph.D. economist who studies the economic impacts of tourism and outdoor recreation to develop a model to calculate the economic contribution that quiet recreation has on local economies surrounding any national forest in the country.

Having run the model for several forests, TWS economists identified a common trend: the economic contribution from hiking, camping, fishing and other quiet, non-motorized forms of recreation is significant and far outpaces that of riding an ATV, dirtbike or other off-road vehicles. The model, named Recreation Economic Impact Tool, or REIT, estimates a range of economic impacts from recreation, including jobs and labor income.

The model is based on the Forest Service’s own method for calculating economic impacts and is based on visitation, spending, and population data from the federal government. Available in MS Excel, the model is easy to use and available to download here.

Who should use REIT? This model can easily be used by Forest Service planners and managers, partner groups, media representatives, elected officials, and others to better understand the use patterns and economic impacts related to recreation on a particular national forest.

Here is a sampling of what our economists have found when running the model on a few forests*:

Non-Motorized Recreation Off-Road Vehicle Recreation
Tahoe National Forest
Employment: 389 jobs
Labor income: $ 9.7 million
Employment: 135 jobs
Labor income: $3.2 million
San Juan National Forest
Employment: 477 jobs
Labor income: $12 million
Employment: 56 jobs
Labor income: $1.3 million
Santa Fe National Forest
Employment: 200 jobs
Labor income: $5 million
Employment: 2.2 jobs
Labor income: $0.1 million
Mt. Hood National Forest
Employment: 893 jobs
Labor income: $27.5 million
Employment: 12 jobs
Labor income: $0.4 million
Allegheny National Forest
Employment: 185 jobs
Labor income: $5.1 million
Employment: 39 jobs
Labor income: $1 million

*Assumptions: Non-motorized recreation included the following activities: primitive camping, backpacking, picnicking, nature study, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, cross-country skiing, and non-motorized water activities. Off-Road vehicle recreation is defined as recreation using a jet ski, dirtbike, snowmobile, ATV, or some other motorized recreational trail vehicle and includes the following activities: ORV use, snowmobiling, motorized water, and other motorized trail activities. All figures are in 2008 dollars.

Use the links below to download the model and background info. Be patient as some files are large and may take a minute to download.