Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reports show economic impact of national parks; White House report has state-level data

Great Smoky Mountains (summitpost.org photo)
More than 300 million visits were made to national parks in 2015—a record number—according to separate reports from The White House and researchers at two universities.

The White House report, released last month, said visits fueled local economies and supported "an estimated $646 billion national outdoor economy ... with visitors spending $16.9 billion in nearby local communities." The report listed each state's park visits and estimated visitor spending in local economies, jobs supported and state economic output supported.

The report said "activities associated with outdoor recreation, conservation, water and renewable energy led to $106 billion in economic output and supported 862,000 jobs. Additionally, the report found that America’s national parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments and other public lands managed by the Department of the Interior hosted an estimated 443 million recreational visits in 2015—up from 423 million in 2014—and that these visits alone supported $45 billion in economic output and about 396,000 jobs nationwide."

study by Colorado State University and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University found that the total economic value of national parks and the National Park Service’s programs is $92 billion, Doug Gavel reports for the Kennedy School. Researchers, said that figure is a conservative estimate, and "two-thirds of this total ($62 billion) is for National Park lands, waters and historic sites; the remaining $30 billion is attributed to NPS programs."

"When citizens were asked if 'It is important to me that National Parks are preserved for current and future generations whether I visit them or not',” 94.9 percent of respondents agreed," John Wihbey reports for Journalist's Resource, also at Harvard. "Only 14.7 percent of respondents indicated that they do not benefit from national parks, and 6.2 percent thought the U.S. should sell off some national parks." Researchers also found that "the annual budget to run the NPS was $2.6 billion in 2014. However, there was a reported backlog of deferred maintenance costs of about $11.9 billion as of February 2016, and revenue shortfalls reportedly are driving the park system to partner more with private companies to fund repairs."

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