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Visits to California Refuges Generates $31 Million

November 29, 2007

Nearly 35 million visitors to America's National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) generated almost $1.7 billion in total economic activity during Fiscal Year 2006 according to a report issued today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The report, Banking on Nature 2006: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, focuses on final demand, employment, income and tax revenue effects recreational visitors to refuges have on the economies of local regions. In addition to the economic effects of refuge hunting and fishing programs in local communities, it measures the economic impact of "ecotourism," and visits for other non-consumptive uses.

According to the study, recreational visits to National Wildlife Refuges in the U.S. provided employment for nearly 27,000 people and generated $542.8 million in employment income. Additionally, recreational spending on refuges generated $185.31 million in tax revenue at the local, county, state and federal level. The economic benefit is almost four times the amount appropriated to the Refuge System in Fiscal Year 2006. About 87 percent of refuge visitors travel from outside the local area.

"The report shows that our refuges are not only great natural places where people in California can connect with nature, but are places that help generate economic benefits for nearby communities," said Steve Thompson, regional director for the Service's California and Nevada Region.

Service economists used findings from 80 national wildlife refuges -- including six in California -- considered typical in terms of the nation's recreational interests and spending habits. The California refuges include: Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR, Sacramento NWR, San Luis, NWR, Stone Lakes NWR, Modoc NWR and Kern NWR. Data from the Fish and Wildlife Service?s 2007 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation and the National Wildlife Refuge Systems' Annual Performance Plan (RAPP) was also used.

According to the report, more than 1.8 million people visited the six California refuges during 2006, spending more than $31 million on activities ranging from observing wildlife and birding to hunting and fishing. Additionally, recreational spending provided employment for 387 people and generated more than $14 million in income and more than $6.3 million in tax revenue.

In California, the majority of visitors and revenue comes from non-consumptive activities. At Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR, for example, more than 1.5 million people visited the refuge in 2006, spending more than $16 million, 98 percent of which was spent on non-consumptive activities such as birding, (674,060) wildlife observation (74,896) and nature trail use (748,955). Approximately 7,500 visitors used the refuge for hunting (3,800) and fishing (3,700) and accounted for just two percent of revenue. Final demand (the total spent by people who earn income from visitors' activities and spending by refuge visitors themselves) totaled $15.1 million, with associated employment of 196 jobs and $3.8 million in total tax revenue. The refuge also returned $43.55 for every $1 in federal budget expenditures.

While considerably fewer in number, people who hunt or fish on refuges spend proportionately more money than those who participate in non-consumptive activities. For example, at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, 94 percent of refuge visitors --more than 129,000 people?participated in non-consumptive activities, spending $757,000. Only 6 percent of refuge visitors--8,100 people--used the refuge for small game and waterfowl hunting, but spent nearly $1 million.

The California refuges in the study are among 39 refuges operated by the Fish and Wildlife Service in California. While the primary purpose of the Refuge System is to conserve native fish and wildlife and their habitat, priority is given to hunting, fishing, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and interpretation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

A copy of the report is available at: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/ . More information about refuges in California is available at: http://www.fws.gov/cno .


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