NWF:Report Underlines Public Lands' Value

Interior's new economic report shows public lands are a gift that keeps on giving

07-29-2013 // Judith Kohler
Seqouia National Park

A new Interior Department report further underlines the importance of our public lands to the U.S. economy and health of our fish, wildlife and waterways.

The activities of Interior, our nation’s largest landlord, contributed $371 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 2.3 million jobs in fiscal 2012, according to a report released Monday. Of that, $45 billion was generated by an estimated 417 million visits to national parks, wildlife refuges and other lands managed by Interior.

The report outlines the economic contributions from conservation, energy development, mining and other activities.

However, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell noted that many of the long-term benefits provided by public lands, including conservation of wetlands and wildlife habitat, can’t be easily quantified and, thus, aren’t included in the report’s bottom line.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation titled “Valuing Our Western Public Lands: Safeguarding Our Economy and Way of Life,’’ highlights recent studies and surveys on the importance – economically, environmentally and socially – of conserving our public lands, the bulk of which are in the West.

“The Interior Department’s new report is more proof that our public lands are the gift that can keep on giving if we are diligent about conserving the irreplaceable landscapes and fish and wildlife resources while making sure any development is done responsibly,’’ said Ann Morgan, executive director of NWF’s Rocky Mountains and Prairies Regional Center.

The hunting, fishing, tourism and outdoor recreation supported by access to public lands provide a sustainable source of jobs and revenue from communities across the country, Morgan added.

Conservation of our public lands also gives the Rocky Mountain West a competitive edge when vying for businesses and workers, said. The NWF report cites a bipartisan survey by Colorado College that a majority of voters in the Rockies support conservation, see public lands as an essential part of the economy and oppose moves by some state and federal lawmakers to sell millions of acres of public lands, turn them over to the states or roll back environmental protections.

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