Mar 17, 2010

Department of the Interior report finds public lands boost the U.S. economy and create jobs

The Department of the interior released a new report that details how its programs and activities stimulate economic activity across the nation, in both urban and rural areas.

The Interior department’s initiative to explain its programs through an economic lens is a response to the country’s troubled economic climate and deficits that have lawmakers trimming spending priorities. President Obama has proposed a spending freeze on “discretionary” federal spending meaning that public lands agencies must prove the worthiness of their mission.

The DOI’s report sets out to do just that. It estimates that Interior department programs support over 1.4 million jobs and $370 billion in economic activity. Recreation programs, which support an estimated 316,000 government and private sector jobs, account for more than 22 percent of the total.

Recreation jobs cater especially to younger generations offering employment to students with high school and college degrees who are beginning their careers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service’s recreation programs employ a combined total of over 3,500 young people under the age of 25.

Recreation programs are especially important to the nation’s rural economies. The report asserts that in states that are 50 percent or more rural, visitation to Interior sites supports about 160,000 jobs and $12.2 billion in output. The rural jobs and output represent about half of the total jobs and output supported by visitation to Interior sites.

Crater Lake National Park, for example, draws 415,868 visitors every year to its rural host county, Klamath, population 66,000. The visits, which are mostly recreation driven, draw in an estimated $31.2 million annually and support nearly 736 local jobs. This translates to more than two percent of the county’s entire labor force, or one out of every 50 jobs.

“This report represents an important first for the Department of the Interior. In our long history, never before has Interior attempted to quantify the economic impacts of its programs and activities agency-wide in economic terms,” said Rhea Suh, Assistant Interior Secretary for Policy.