Banking on Nature Report 2017

Banking on Nature Horicon

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.


Horicon National Wildlife Refuge brings you more than watchable wildlife, it’s good for the economy

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. Horicon National Wildlife Refuge was featured in the latest assessment along with more than 160 other refuges and wetland management districts. Here are some highlights.

Horicon National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 to provide resting and breeding habitat for a number of migratory birds and waterfowl - especially the redhead duck. The refuge encompasses the northern two-thirds of the 33,000 acre Horicon Marsh and is one of the largest intact freshwater wetlands in the U.S. This important staging area for migratory birds was added to the Ramsar Convention in 1990, making it an internationally significant wetland. Horicon Marsh is a shallow, peat-filled lake bed scoured out of limestone by the Green Bay lobe of the massive Wisconsin glacier. The same layer of rock that forms the gentle hills to the east of the marsh extends 500 miles to where the Niagara River plunges at Niagara Falls.

While the refuge offers outstanding hunting, fishing and environmental education, most people visit Horicon to watch wildlife and photograph the more than 300 bird species that call this beautiful landscape home. Because the refuge is within an hour’s drive to both Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin more than 840,000 people have the opportunity to visit the refuge and become regular visitors.

During a visit at the peak of spring migration, you'll likely see a huge variety of ducks, warblers, herons, shorebirds and American white pelicans and will certainly hear the calls of gray tree frogs. Fall brings mass numbers of migrating ducks as well as staging sandhill cranes, tundra swans and, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of trumpeter swans or a rare whooping crane.

In 2017, the refuge had about 434,000 recreational visits which contributed to the economies of Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties. Non-consumptive recreation - things like birding, photography and hiking - accounted for about 428,000 of those visits, with residents comprising 41 percent of that visitation. This type of recreation brought in $6.5 million to the local economy, with non-residents accounting for $5.1 million or 78 percent of those expenditures.

Refuges like Horicon 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 Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.