​$1 Billion Recreation Spending Report Reveals Multi-State Sagebrush

A $1 billion recreation spending project might sound like a hefty price to pay for protecting the sagebrush ecosystem.

This $1 billion recreation spending report comes from the Western Values Project revealing just how much it costs to manage sagebrush lands with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 11 western states.

The report, prepared by Eugene, Oregon firm ECONorthwest, finds that visits to BLM-managed lands in these western states resulted in an economic output of over $1 billion in recreation spending in 2013 alone.

Pew Charitable Trusts and the Western Values Project are nonprofit groups that advocate a balance between energy development and conservation.

Ken Rait, director of Pew’s U.S. public lands project, said:

“Protecting greater sage-grouse habitat is not just wise conservation policy, but also sound economic policy for the West.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. However, critics fear the move could have a negative economic impact in the form of restrictions on oil and gas exploration on public government lands. Officials for the Washington D.C.-based Public Lands Council said the study demonstrates the economic importance of access to public lands but that its focus is too narrow.

Dustin Van Liew, the council’s executive director, said:

“Ranchers are the year-round drivers in the West when it comes to wildlife conservation and in particular, sage grouse conservation … The biggest threats to the bird and its habitat are wildfires, land fragmentation, and development — and all of these are diminished by keeping livestock on public lands and ensuring ranchers have the ability to stay in business.”

The study was conducted by Pew Charitable Trusts and released on Tuesday. It’s the first of its kind to examine the direct and indirect economic impacts of recreation spending tied to U.S. Bureau of Land Management property with habitat for sagebrush-dependent species. The facts in the $1 billion recreation spending report are quite interesting, with hunters, campers, fishermen, and others who directly spent more than $623 million within 50 miles of relevant property across more than 61 million acres.

In the list of 11 states involved with the $1 billion recreation spending, Idaho led the way with $126 million, followed by Nevada, $88 million; Wyoming $87 million; Oregon, $75 million; Colorado, $50 million; and Utah, $39 million. Biologists consider the greater sage grouse to be an indicator species whose population numbers signify the health of the entire sagebrush ecosystem that supports a wide array of wildlife.