For some reason there is a general hatred spreading of the Bureau of Land Management, better known as BLM. The federal agency owns quite a bit of land in a large part of the American West and Southwest, and they have been accused of overreaching by everyone from Cliven Bundy to the governor of Texas. It seems that they’re just the newest agency everyone loves to hate.
However, in a new report from ECONorthwest, recreational activities that occur on BLM land may have given a significant boost to local economies. The report, commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts, analyzed data from 11 western states and Alaska, calculating the total number of visits to BLM land in 2014, distinguishing between “quiet recreation” and “non quiet recreation,” and extrapolating the total spending in local economies as a direct result of these recreational activities.
These 12 states, Arizona, Colorado, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico, Washington, Wyoming, and Alaska received 61 million recreational visits in 2014, over 62 million visitor days. Quiet recreation is defined as non-motorized activities, such as camping, picnicking, hiking, swimming, fishing, and hunting. This quiet recreation accounts for 58% of all visitor days to BLM lands in these 12 states.
Each visit to BLM lands results in purchases in local economies. Visitors may buy gas, food, or souvenirs in communities within 50 miles of their recreation site. This spending, throughout 2014 totaled approximately $1.8 billion, boosting local and larger regional economies, circulating up through the state and even the national economy. As the spending caused a ripple effect, the over all economic output from the recreational visits was over $2.8 billion, with $1.54 billion value added, $800 million in personal income to employees and business owners, and 25,000 jobs.
“This study is significant because it is the first ever to quantify both the amount of quiet recreation and the spending associated with quiet recreation specifically on BLM lands,” said ECONorthwest’s Kristin Lee, who led the research. “We found that the majority of visitors to BLM lands enjoyed nonmotorized recreation; in the process, they spent $1.8 billion in the economies of local communities—which resulted in $2.8 billion of economic output at the national level.”
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