The article below is from the August Birding Community E-Bulletin by Paul Baicich and Wayne Peterson.  

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Edge Wade
ASM Conservation Partnership Coordinator

Every five years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) releases a report on the economic impact of visitation to our National Wildlife Refuges. The report is called "Banking on Nature," and the most recent report, released earlier this summer, documents the 2017 economic findings. The report is the sixth in a series of studies since 1997. This research was conducted on 162 National Wildlife Refuges across the country to estimate economic impacts. According to the report, 53.6 million people visited refuges in that fiscal year (2017-2018). The "Banking on Nature" study also revealed that:
    1)      National Wildlife Refuges are seen widely as travel-worthy destinations: 83 percent of refuge spending was done by visitors from outside the local area - an increase of 9 percent from the 2011 study.
    2)      Trip-related spending generated $3.2 billion of economic output in regional economies - an increase of 20 percent from the 2011 report.
    3)      More than 41,000 jobs (up 18 percent from 2011) and $1.1 billion in employment income (up 22 percent) were generated.
    4)      The combined economic contribution to communities nationwide is more than six times the $483.9 million appropriated by Congress to the Refuge System in FY 2017.
    5)      About 86 percent of total recreation-related expenditures and 81 percent of all visits are generated by non-consumptive activities on refuges (e.g., birding, wildlife photography, hiking, paddling, auto-touring, bicycling, and educational experiences).
In one sense, this edition of "Banking on Nature" is the broadest to date, representing a 70 percent increase in the number of refuges sampled, compared to the 2011 report. On the other hand, previous reports - covering fewer refuges - have been much longer, going into more page-by-page detail when it comes to individual refuge profiles. The useful individual NWR reports do exist, but combined as a separate downloadable document. Unfortunately, however, the important non-consumptive activities stipulated in the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act (Public Law 105-57) of wildlife watching, wildlife photography, environmental education and interpretation - are virtually lost in these summaries.
There was at least one other loss in the current report: The 2013 report had a useful two-page appendix on the impact of birding in the Refuge System with material and tables on NWRs with high birding visitation, birding expenditures on sample refuges, and related job incomes on these refuges. Regrettably such similar information is lacking in the current report.
You can access the new 32-page summary study here, with expanded details on individual refuges available through the same page:

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