US Fish & Wildlife Service logo
Southeast Region US Fish & Wildlife Service header


National Wildlife Refuge Provide Economic Benefits Today, Conservation Benefits for Future Generations


October 6, 2005

Chris Tollefson, 202-208-5634


Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today released a report that shows recreational use on national wildlife refuges generated almost $1.4 billion in total economic activity during the 2004 fiscal year. The report, Banking on Nature 2004: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, was compiled by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

According to the study, nearly 37 million people visited national wildlife refuges in 2004, creating almost 24,000 private sector jobs and producing about $454 million in employment income. Additionally, recreational spending on refuges generated nearly $151 million in tax revenue at the local, county, state and federal level.

“Our national wildlife refuges are not only beautiful places where fish and wildlife can flourish, they are also economic engines for their local communities, providing jobs, customers for local businesses, and tax revenue for local governments,” Secretary Norton said. “With 17 new refuges and a 30 percent increase in the refuge system budget since 2001, we are ensuring our refuges continue to be places of awe and wonder as well as economic vitality for local communities across the country.”

The report reinforces the travel industry’s belief that ecotourism is becoming big business, according to Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association of America, who unveiled the report with the Secretary of the Interior. The study measured the economic impact of ecotourism, large numbers of people traveling substantial distances for outdoor
activities like wildlife observation and photography, as well as more traditional refuge programs like hunting and fishing.

In the Southeast Region, the following refuges are highlighted:

Black Bayou Lake NWR (Louisiana)
Bon Secour NWR (Alabama)
Cache River NWR (Arkansas)
Cape Romain NWR (South Carolina)
Chassahowitzka NWR (Florida)
Clarks River NWR (Kentucky)
Felsenthal NWR (Arkansas)
J.N. Ding Darling NWR (Florida)
Lower Suwannee NWR (Florida)
Okefenokee NWR (Georgia)
Pea Island NWR (North Carolina)
Pee Dee NWR (North Carolina)
Piedmont NWR (Georgia)
Sabine NWR (Louisiana)
St. Marks NWR (Florida)
Tennessee NWR (Tennessee)
Theodore Roosevelt NWR Complex (Mississippi)
West Tennessee NWR Complex (Tennessee)
White River NWR (Arkansas)

Highlights from the Banking on Nature 2004 report include:

  • More than 80 percent of retail sales came from people who traveled some distance to get to national wildlife refuges and the recreational opportunities they offer. Local residents accounted for just 17 percent of total retail sales to refuge visitors.
  • The Southeast led the Refuge System in economic impact. With nearly 11 million visitors last year, national wildlife refuges in the Southeast created more than $451 million in economic activity and more than 8,500 jobs.
  • The report shows a considerable “consumer surplus” of more than $1 billion in 2004. Consumer surplus is a measure of how much more people are willing to pay for recreation than it actually costs them.

Using findings from 93 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. Costs considered in the 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 2004 used the Fish and Wildlife Service’s “2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation” and the visitation numbers from Refuge Management Information System. Refuges 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.

The National Wildlife Refuge System encompasses nearly 100 million acres and 545 national wildlife refuges. Priority uses of the National Wildlife Refuge System are hunting, fishing, photography, wildlife observation,environmental education, and interpretation.

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.

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at or

NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at Our national home page is at:, GA 30345
Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

Graphic for Clickable Items Click for Privacy Statement Click here for Freedom of Information Act Statement Click here for Disclaimer Statement Click here to Contact the Southeast Region Click here for Sitemap Click here for the Search Engine for US Fish and Wildlife Service Click here for the Regions in the US Fish and Wildlife Service