Sierra Club Reports on Recreation in West's Economy

A new report released by the Sierra Club shows that the economics of the West have shifted dramatically over the past few decades. Mining, timber, and oil--the industries that shaped the old West--no longer drive the region’s economy. Today, the report finds, recreational activities like camping, fishing, hunting, skiing, climbing, and boating support more sustainable jobs and economic growth than extractive industries.

The report, "The New Economy of the West: From Clearcutting to Camping," shows that increasingly, western communities depend on public lands for jobs, economic growth, and vitality.

Some key findings in the report:

  • One in twenty Americans rely in some manner on outdoor recreation to make a living

  • In 2006, outdoor recreation in the West generated $61 billion and 617,186 new jobs

  • Communities that are closest to federally-protected public lands show the strongest economic growth

Despite their importance to the regional and national economy, today, western public lands face threats from many fronts. Oil and gas drilling, runaway logging, and global warming all jeopardize the future of recreation in the West, and the long-term economic benefits that accompany it.

Oil drilling, for example, fragments wildlife habitat and destroys hunting opportunities. By and large, the report shows, the oil industry imports highly-skilled workers from other parts of the country, employing few local workers. Oil companies also turn to counties to fund services like road repairs and waste disposal, while doing little to boost jobs and income locally. Meanwhile, recreation and tourism provide a long-term, locally-based source of jobs and income. In Colorado’s Roan Plateau, hunting alone generates nearly $4 million a year.

"Our public lands are one of our nation’s most valuable economic assets," said Sierra Club Conservation Organizer Keren Murphy, who authored the report. "The economy of the West has changed, and so should the way we manage it."

"Public lands drive the tourist-based economies in our western states. If we protect special places like Colorado’s Roan Plateau and New Mexico’s Valle Vidal, they’ll provide a source of income and enjoyment for generations to come," Murphy said.

"The heart of America’s wild legacy lies in the forests, mountains and deserts of the West. Unchecked logging, oil drilling and mining no longer have a place on our last remaining wild lands. We have a choice to make, between treating our public lands as a giveaway to special interests, or as a gift to our children and grandchildren."

To download the report, visit: http://www.sierraclub.org/wildlegacy/downloads/2007publicwildlandsreport.pdf.

Filed under: People & Organizations, Places

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