It Pays to Conserve


Outdoor recreation—including skiing at Waubay National Wildlife Refuge, SD—generates $88 billion in federal and state tax revenue.Laura Hubers

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contributed about $4.2 billion in economic activity and supported more than 32,000 private sector jobs as a result of national wildlife refuges and other public lands managed by the Service, according to a recent report commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The report also shows that the total value of ecosystem services provided by habitat in the Refuge System is worth more than $32 billion each year. Ecosystem services include all the functions performed by nature that benefit people, such as climate regulation, waste treatment, water supply, and carbon sequestration, among others.

Produced by Southwick Associates, the 2011 report includes data on the economic value of natural resource conservation, outdoor recreation and historic preservation. All together, the economic impact in the United States – including from the Refuge System —  is $1.06 trillion dollars – more than the gross domestic product of Australia.

Key findings:

  • Outdoor recreation– generates $88 billion in federal and state tax revenue. The study measured recreation not widely offered on national wildlife refuges, like camping and skiing, as well as recreation often found on refuges, including hunting, fishing and wildlife observation.
  • The property value of homes near parks and protected areas is typically about 20 percent higher than similar homes elsewhere.
  • About $2 billion was spent on construction and maintenance activities related to recreation and conservation, supporting about 41,000 jobs.
  • $222 million spent by the Department of the Interior on land acquisition contributed about $427 million in economic activity and supported about 3,000 jobs.

The full report is available online at