2017 Banking on Nature Report

Photo of a checkered white butterfly (Pontia protodice) resting on a black-eyed Susan flower (Rudbeckia hirta) at the Overton Bottoms North Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge by Anna Weyers/USFWS.

Public lands are often recognized for their measurable benefits in terms of improved air and water quality, habitat protection and biodiversity, but they also bring in money and jobs to local economies. Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was featured in the latest 'Banking on Nature' report about the economic contributions to local communities of Refuge recreational visitation, along with more than 160 other refuges and wetland management districts.

Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge brings you more than watchable wildlife, it's good for the economy

July 11, 2019

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know that public lands are valuable and those who visit them know that they help improve the quality of life and the health of the community. There are countless benefits to having access to recreation like birding, hiking, hunting and fishing, but did you know that public lands are good for the economy too?

While there are all sorts of measurable benefits ranging from air and water quality to biodiversity and habitat protection, we also track how public lands bring money and jobs into your local economy. For more than 20 years, we’ve been publishing a national assessment that highlights economic contributions associated with recreational use on National Wildlife Refuge System lands. Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was featured in the latest assessment along with more than 160 other refuges and wetland management districts. Here are some highlights.

The historic Missouri River, nicknamed "Big Muddy," because of its murky, sediment-filled waters, serves as beneficial habitat for many wildlife species. The river’s ability to carve through floodplains and create side channels, wetlands and oxbow lakes has attracted and sustained wildlife since the retreat of glaciers from the region thousands of years ago. Drastic changes began to occur on the Missouri River soon after the journey of Lewis and Clark described its wildlife to the world in the early 1800s. Over the next century, hundreds of steamships sank in the river and efforts began to control it. By the 1980s, more than 700 miles of river had been channelized, reducing risks but also crucial habitat. Because of this and further damage by major flooding, Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established in September of 1994 for the development, advancement, management, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife resources for the continuing benefit of the American people.

With multiple refuge units located within miles of the St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City, Missouri metropolitan areas, it’s no surprise that the refuge is a hotspot for recreationalists of all interests. In 2017, the refuge had about 12,000 recreational visits which contributed to the economies of 14 counties in Missouri. We found that local residents, those that live within 50 miles or less of the refuge, made up 84 percent of this use. People really love the Big Muddy! 

We also found that more than 62 percent of people come to hunt and fish when they visit. The rest come for non-consumptive activities like birding, photography and hiking. All told, recreational visitation, from residents and non-residents combined, brought in almost $260,000 in one year alone. The contribution of recreational spending in local communities was associated with $170,000 in employment income, $23,000 in total tax revenue and $444,000 in economic output.

Refuges like Big Muddy help fuel the American economy. These tangible benefits are in addition to the invaluable ecosystem services like flood and erosion protection, air and water purification and wildlife habitat protection.

Learn more by checking out the full report: Banking on Nature 2017: The Economic Contributions of National Wildlife Refuge Recreational Visitation to Local Communities

Learn more about Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.