Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

November 27, 2007

Contact:  David Eisenhauer, 202-208-5634


National Wildlife Refuges in Mountain-Prairie Region

Provide Economic Boost to Region

Recreational uses on national wildlife refuges in the Mountain-Prairie Region generated more than $82.4 million in economic return and created 1,387 private sector jobs during fiscal year 2006, according to a new report released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The report, titled Banking on Nature 2006: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, showed that nationally, recreational uses on national wildlife refuges in the same year generated almost $1.7 billion in total economic activity.


According to the report, compiled by Service economists, nearly 35 million people nationwide visited national wildlife refuges in 2006, supporting almost 27,000 private sector jobs and producing about $543 million in employment income.  The national economic benefit is almost four times the $383 million appropriated to the National Wildlife Refuge System in fiscal year 2006.  In addition, recreational spending on national wildlife refuges nationwide generated nearly $185.3 million in tax revenue at the local, county, state and federal level.

In the Mountain-Prairie Region, national wildlife refuges created $26 million in job income and welcomed more than 2.1 million visitors in 2006.  The report analyzed national wildlife refuges in Colorado, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska.       

Using findings from 80 national wildlife refuges considered typical in terms of the nation’s recreational interests and spending habits, the report analyzed recreational participation in and expenditures for freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, migratory bird hunting, small game hunting, big game hunting and non-consumptive activities, including wildlife observation. Calculation of the total economic activity included money spent for food and refreshments, lodging at motels, cabins, lodges or campgrounds, and transportation.


In making its calculations, Banking on Nature 2006 used the Service’s “2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation” and the visitation numbers from the individual refuges.  Units with fewer than 1,500 visitors per year and those in Hawaii and Alaska (because travel there is so expensive) were excluded from the final calculations.  Therefore, the Banking on Nature study estimates that 34.8 million people visited wildlife refuges—a tally smaller than the actual visitation figure of more than 37 million reported by all refuges. 

“We’ve always known that national wildlife refuges enrich Americans’ lives,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall.  “This report reveals that the Refuge System, while admirably fulfilling its conservation mission, also repays us in dollars and cents.  Those economic benefits go far beyond the system’s mandated mission to ensure wild creatures will always have a place on the American landscape.”


The National Wildlife Refuge System encompasses 97 million acres and 548 national wildlife refuges. While the primary purpose of the Refuge System is to conserve native fish and wildlife and their habitat, priority is given to hunting, fishing, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and interpretation.

Nationwide and in the region, about 87 percent of refuge visitors travel from outside the local area to take part in recreation on national wildlife refuges.  Among significant other findings:

About 82 percent of total expenditures came from non-consumptive recreation (recreation other than hunting and fishing) on national wildlife refuges.  Fishing accounted for 12 percent of total expenditures, while hunting accounted for 6 percent.   


  • The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years by the Service, found that more than 87 million Americans, or 38 percent of the United States' population age 16 and older, pursued outdoor recreation in 2006.  They spent $120 billion that year pursuing those activities.  About 71 million people observed wildlife, while 30 million fished and 12.5 million hunted. 


  • The 1.1-million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana, renown for its big game hunting, welcomed more than 233,000 visitors in 2006.  It was responsible for the creation of 232 private sector jobs, which generated more than $4.2 million in job income.  It generated more than $14 million in economic return and created $8.66 of economic activity for every $1 in federal budget expenditures in fiscal 2006.   


  • The 38,500-acre Madison Wetland Management District (WMD) in South Dakota not only manages habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife, but its wetlands help prevent flooding.  The northeastern portion of the WMD lies within the tallgrass prairie region of South Dakota.  More than 127,000 people visited the WMD, which created 80 private sector jobs in the community and generated more than $2 million in job income.  It returned $9.48 for every federal budget dollar in fiscal year 2006.


For a copy of the report or to find more information on the National Wildlife Refuge System, visit

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.