WASHINGTON, JULY 7, 2010 AT 12:30 PM EDT - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the release of a report showing the economic importance of America's National Forests and Grasslands to rural communities across the country. The updated National Visitor Use Monitoring Report reveals that recreation activities on national forests and grasslands have helped to sustain an estimated 223,000 jobs in rural areas and contributed approximately $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
"Outdoor recreation is a crucial part of USDA's effort to help generate wealth and economic opportunities in rural America," said Vilsack. "This report demonstrates clearly how recreation activities not only help Americans enjoy a healthier lifestyle and instill an appreciation for the great outdoors, but also sustain thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in economic activity in rural communities across the country."
According to the report:
- Recreation activities on National Forests and Grasslands sustain 223,000 jobs in the rural communities within 50 miles of the National Forests and Grasslands, where visitors purchase goods and services for their recreational activity. These include services of outfitters and guides for whitewater rafting and big game hunting, alpine and Nordic ski areas, and lodging as well as supplies from local businesses such as groceries, fishing tackle, and bicycle rentals.
- Visitors spend $13 billion directly in those communities within 50 miles of the National Forests and Grasslands. Those dollars spent in turn within the local communities generate $14.5 billion in economic activity.
- The national estimate for recreation visits to National Forest System lands in 2009 is 173.5 million. Additionally, there were more than 300 million occasions of people driving to simply view the scenery and wildlife on National Forests.
- Visitor satisfaction is very high, with an overall satisfaction rate of 94 percent.
- More than 57 percent of visits to National Forest System lands are done primarily for physical activity, such as hiking, biking, and skiing.
- Approximately 83 percent of visitors are content with the value received for any fees paid.
- 98 percent of the lands within National Forests and Grasslands can be accessed without paying a fee.
- Recreation visitation on national forests includes diverse clientele.
Additionally, the report provides data on visitation patterns, visitor activities, visitor satisfaction and future expectations of recreation users on National Forest System lands. The many recreational activities available on public lands also helps support First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative which aims to get kids and their families more physically active.
The full report is available at: www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum.