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Study shows National Wildlife Refuges generate nearly $1.4 billion in economic activity (10/12/2005)
National Wildlife Refuges operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Midwest attracted more than 7.4 million visitors in 2004, generating more than $257 million in economic activity and 3,680 private sector jobs according to a report released today by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.

The report, Banking on Nature 2004: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, examines recreational use by visitors to refuges nationwide and the resulting economic impact to local economies. According to the report, nearly 37 million people visited national wildlife refuges, creating almost 24,000 private sector jobs and producing about $454 million in employment income. Recreational spending on refuges generated nearly $151 million in tax revenue at the local, county, state and federal level.

"Our national wildlife refuges are not only beautiful places where fish and wildlife can flourish, they are also economic engines for their local communities, providing jobs, customers for local businesses, and tax revenue for local governments," Secretary Norton said. "With 17 new refuges and a 30 percent increase in the refuge system budget since 2001, we are ensuring our refuges continue to be places of awe and wonder as well as economic vitality for local communities across the country."

Detailed visitor and economic results for the sampled refuges are available in the report which is available on the Internet at: http://refuges.fws.gov .

The National Wildlife Refuge System consists of 545 refuges encompassing more than 95 million acres and is the world's largest network of public lands dedicated to the conservation of migratory birds, fish, plants and other wildlife. Refuges offer visitors six priority public uses: hunting, fishing, photography, wildlife observation, environmental education, and interpretation. The Service's Midwest Region, headquartered at Ft. Snelling, Minn., operates 53 refuges in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Information about refuges in the Midwest is available at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Refuges/

For the Banking on Nature 2004 report, economists looked at six activities: freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, migratory bird hunting, small game hunting, big game hunting and non-consumptive activities, including wildlife observation. Economists used data contained in the Service's 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, and the Refuge Management Information System (RMIS), a database which tracks visitation.

Wetland Management Districts were not included in the refuge study. The Service manages 12 Wetland Management Districts in the Midwest.

The Banking on Nature report was released in advance of National Wildlife Refuge Week (October 9-15) which is celebrated at refuges and wetland management districts nationwide with scores of recreation and education events.

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 Systemt fisheries, conserves and restore. 


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