The following article on refuges was written by Joseph Miller and published in The Arctic Sounder online on November 15, 2013.
A recent study found that wildlife refuges across the country — including 16 refuges in Alaska — have pumped more than $2.4 billion into the country's economy.
Within Alaska, subsistence activities provided a significant benefit to the communities nearby and within the boundaries of Alaska's national wildlife refuges. Most residents of these areas use the refuges for subsistence hunting and fishing, which figures into the overall economic impact. More than half of the national wildlife refuges in Alaska were included in the study.
The Selawik National Wildlife Refuge had 21,203 visitors in 2011. These visits generated $1.4 million in economic benefit, returning $1.28 for every $1 appropriated, calculated in 2011 dollars, the study said.
"Our National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's greatest network of lands dedicated to wildlife conservation but is also an important contributor to our economy, attracting more than 46 million visitors from around the world who support local restaurants, hotels, and other businesses," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in a written statement. "Every dollar we invest in our Refuge System and other public lands generate huge dividends for our country."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the study by examining the visits to 92 of the 550 national wildlife refuges in the United States between Oct. 1 of 2010 to Sept. 31 of 2011. The areas that were examined in the study focused on visitor spending in four distinct areas, which were food, lodging, transportation, and a separate category that included guide fees, land-use fees, and equipment rentals.
The study also found that 77 percent of all spending in national wildlife refuges was done by visitors from outside of the local areas. The refuge system also created 35,000 jobs annually and provided $792.7 million in job income for the local economies around the refuges. Since the start of the report in 2006, there was a reported 30 percent increase in annual visitors, a 20 percent increase in sales and economic output, and a 23 percent increase in annual jobs created by the refuges, all of which occurred on a national scale.
These findings from the study indicate that even during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, the refuge system still manages to create an enormous increase in revenue and returns into their local economies.
"The 'Banking on Nature' report could not have come at a better time as it reinforces the tremendous value of nature as found in our National Wildlife Refuge System," said Kameran Onley, the acting director of government relations for the Nature Conservancy. "National Wildlife Refuges provide innumerable public benefits for the nation, fish and wildlife habitats, special places for wildlife recreation and stimulation for local economies."
As Congress goes over the upcoming budget for next year, the Cooperate Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, (CARE) is asking the House of Representatives and the Senate to approve $499 million in funding for 2014.
"As hunters, anglers, bird and wildlife watchers, scientists, conversationalists and concerned Americans, we know that the National Wildlife Refuge System has always been a worthy investment," said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and chair of the CARE coalition in a press release. "Now the data proves it. Refuges provide an enormous bang for the American buck."
Miller, Joseph. "Wildlife Refuges Pump Millions into Economies." The Arctic Sounder. The Arctic Sounder, 15 Nov. 2013, 10:33 am. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
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Their scientific name means "tooth walker." Males can weigh more than 3300 pounds.