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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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Lakewood, Colorado 80228


October 10, 2003

For more information: Cindy Hoffman: 202/208-3008

National Wildlife Refuges Generate Jobs,
Sales Revenue for Communities

Washington, DC- As National Wildlife Refuge Week approaches, a new study on the Refuge System released today shows it was a major economic engine for communities in 2002, adding millions of dollars in jobs and retail sales.

The more than 35.5 million visits to the nation’s 540 refuges fueled more than $809 million in sales of recreation equipment, food, lodging, transportation, and other expenditures in 2002, according to Banking on Nature 2002: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation. That figure is more than double the $401.1 million generated in 1995, the last time the study was conducted.

"National Wildlife Refuges are wonderful places where people can enjoy quiet and solitude and unfettered natural beauty in an increasingly crowded and busy world," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "For local communities, our more than 540 refuges also are economic engines that attract 35.5 million people a year, providing jobs and other benefits. I invite Americans to explore our national wildlife refuges during National Wildlife Refuge Week."

As refuges generated recreation spending, nearly 19,000 jobs were created and more than $318 million were generated in employment income. The 2002 employment statistics were nearly double the 1995 figures, when 10,200 jobs were attributed to the existence of refuges and about $163 million were generated.

The total for sales and tourism related revenue plus employment income – $1.12 billion, in total – is nearly four times the $320 million that the National Wildlife Refuge System received in FY 2002 for operation and maintenance.

Banking on Nature 2002 only calculated the economic impact of refuges in the Lower 48 states. Refuges in Hawaii and Alaska were not part of the study.

"We have invested in national wildlife refuges because they are a unique and extraordinary way of conserving America’s great outdoor heritage," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams. "Banking on Nature clearly illustrates that we have done well economically. The economic benefits from refuges would make venture capitalists envious. National Wildlife Refuge Week is the perfect time for Americans to visit their local refuges and see why the system has been such a success."

National Wildlife Refuge Week, celebrated October 12-18, will provide Americans with a number of special events, festivals, environmental education programs and dedications of new facilities. Refuge Week is designed to highlight the wealth of natural resources conserved on the nearly 100 million acres that form the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Refuge System is the world's only public lands system dedicated to wildlife and conserving wildlife habitat. Additional information on Refuge Week, including a list of selected events, is available online at:

Among the report’s other findings of the economic value of recreation on the Refuge System:

Refuge visitors would have been willing to pay far more for their visits than it actually cost them. Such a differential, called a "consumer surplus," hit $792 million in 2002.

Refuge spending is very important in some communities. The town of Chincoteague, VA, for example, is the gateway to the national wildlife refuge of the same name. Because of the area’s isolation, the refuge’s 1.5 million annual visits are hugely important to the local economy, resulting in about $40 million, including 590 new jobs and $12 million in new compensation. The Fish and Wildlife Service spent $3.8 million to operate Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in fiscal year 2002.

Fifteen refuges were studied in detail for Banking on Nature 2002. They were Chincoteague (VA), National Elk (WY), Crab Orchard (IL), Eufaula (AL), Charles M. Russell (MT), Umatilla (OR), Quivira (KS), Mattamuskeet (NC), Upper Souris (ND), San Francisco Bay (CA), Laguna Atacosa (TX), Horicon (WI), Las Vegas (NM), Tule Lake (CA) and Tensas River (LA). National statistics were extrapolated from information gathered at the 15 refuges, the same refuges studied in 1995.

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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 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 governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.



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