Recreation on National Forests and Grasslands contributes $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy according to a new report from the U.S. Forest Service. This past year, national forests attracted 170.8 million recreational visitors and sustained approximately 223,000 jobs in rural communities.
The report findings show that protecting forests can help diversify rural economies many of which have historically been dependent on the boom-bust cycles of resource-based industries.
These numbers are particularly impressive considering that they do not include the economic benefits from our National Park System which is managed by the Department of the Interior. Nor do they include the economic impact from National Wildlife Refuges, National Monuments, or state and local parks.
The report highlights another positive aspect of National Forests during a bad economy. "You’d be hard pressed to find any vacation destinations that offer better value," according to Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell. Less than half of developed sites charge any fees.
By looking just at recreation, the report undercounts the full economic benefits from National Forests. Protected forests provide many other environmental services that are critical to the health of the U.S. economy.
The findings from this report help further dispel the argument that environmental protection is bad for the economy. This is important to consider as the new Republican Congress takes major steps to gut environmental protections under the guise of "job creation."
--by Rob Goldstein