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National Wildlife Refuges Found To Be Economic Drivers In Local Communities
By Maureen McCollum
Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 5:00am
A new study shows that national wildlife refuges across the country drive $2.4 billion into the economy and impact local communities.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services researchers looked at 92 wildlife refuges, including Wisconsin’s Horicon National Wildlife Refuge and the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The report examines how much money visitors spend at the refuges and in nearby communities, including what they spend on fishing or hunting licenses, dining, and lodging.
The Upper Mississippi River Refuge is the most visited refuge in the system and spans four states. The study found for every budget dollar spent on this refuge, about $45 went back to local economies. Overall, it has more than a $160 million economic impact.
Jim Nissen, the refuge’s La Crosse district manager, says it also helped support the most jobs out of all the refuges studied. “They’re jobs that support the recreation industry,” says Nissen. “It could be someone working in a restaurant; it could be someone working at an entity that sells boats.”
Nissen says the Upper Mississippi refuge is a major draw for waterfowl and deer hunters, as well as bird watchers and nature lovers. Almost all of its annual visitors live outside of the surrounding region.
At the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, the majority of its visitors are locals from nearby Dodge and Fond du Lac counties. The study found that for every budget dollar spent there, about $12 goes back into the local community.