"When we strive to pass wilderness legislation, what we are really engaged in is democracy at work."
Read an important message about patriotism and the purpose of wilderness from our friends at the Wilderness Support Center in Colorado.
Wilderness and the Economy
Wilderness and Nature Spur Arizona Economy
by Barbara Hawke, Executive Director, AWC
Preserving wilderness and conserving public lands makes good economic sense. A number of studies have shown that people value preserved landscapes, scenic beauty and outdoor recreation, and they want to live and work where there is great quality of life. For the rural west, conserved public lands are an especially important asset to attract entrepreneurs, retirees and tourists who bring dollars into the community.
Here we share an array of research and articles that explore the economic benefits of preserving wilderness and public lands.
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As we consider the many values of wilderness...
...we should include economic value in our thinking. Wilderness indeed is a place for solitude and recreation, a source for clean air and clean water, a haven for wildlife. Yet in many places wilderness can act as an economic driver, as well.
Arizona’s natural wonders draw millions of tourists to the state each year. And preserved natural areas are a big part of the attraction.
The National Park Service just released a report on the contributions of national parks to our nation’s economy. In Arizona, nearly 10 million national park visitors spend close to three-quarters of a billion dollars each year, to the benefit of the Arizona economy.
Arizona boasts an incredible array of protected lands, ranging from the world-class attraction of Grand Canyon National Park to lesser-known places like the Sonoran Desert National Monument. Wilderness within such areas appeals to a broad spectrum of travelers and residents alike.
Saguaro National Park (SNP) is a glowing example of the importance of wilderness areas to residents and tourists.
“This park is unique in the national park system. Saguaro’s 92,000 acres are 78% wilderness, and the Park is managed as wilderness. We’re also unique in that we sit adjacent to Tucson, a major metropolitan area with nearly one million residents,” explains Robert Newtson, Executive Director of the Friends of Saguaro National Park.
Visitor statistics reflect how SNP serves both residents seeking respite in nature and tourists bringing dollars into the community. More than 90% of the 634,000 annual visits to Saguaro National Park were from outside the Tucson area, according to the recent National Park report.
The economic contributions of preserved natural lands grow from ecotourism, as well. The Grand Canyon draws visitors from all 50 states and 41 foreign countries, contributing hundreds of millions to the Arizona economy.
Wildlife, too, brings focused tourism - a recent study published by the Tucson Audubon Society found that, in 2011, visitors contributed more than $183 million to our state’s economy via watchable wildlife trips.
While the most important reasons to preserve wilderness are to ensure a wild natural legacy, the economic benefits show that wilderness makes “dollars and sense”, as well.
National Parks Economic Impacts of Visitation & Expenditures, June 2015, a tool provided by Headwaters Economics allowing you to search by National Park for it's economic effects.
2014 National Park Service Visitor Spending Effects, a report on parks’ economic contributions to local communities, states, and the nation.