Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wildlife watching a major boon to U.S. economy

Some pastimes are quintessentially American: watching sports, going to amusement parks, bowling. But a new federal study shows that one of the most lucrative leisure activities might be found in an unexpected source: watching wildlife.

"Wildlife Watching in the U.S.: The Economic Impacts on National and State Economies in 2006" estimates that "expenditures from wildlife watching equal the revenues generated from all spectator sports, amusement parks and arcades, casinos without hotels, bowling alleys and ski resorts combined," reports Wes Smalling of the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming. Almost one-third of the U.S. population participated in wildlife watching activity in that year.

Jessica Lynn, community naturalist at the Murie Audubon Society, expressed surprise, not at the activity's popularity, but at the amount of money brought in by the activity. Then she started thinking about the gear she owned for her own birdwatching activities: "binoculars, backpacks, birding guides and maps, clothing for all four seasons."

According to the report, Smalling writes, expenditures on travel, gear and other expenses "had a ripple effect across local, state and national economies generating $122.6 billion in industrial output and resulting in more than a million jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues." (Read more; to read the full report, click here)

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