U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced today (June 28) in a press release that 53.6 million people visited national wildlife refuges in 2017, which had an economic impact of $3.2 billion on local communities and supported more than 41,000 jobs.

The figures come from a new economic report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service titled Banking on Nature 2017: The Economic Contributions of National Wildlife Refuge Recreational Visitation to Local Communities. The report is the sixth in a series of studies since 1997 that measure the economic contributions of national wildlife refuge recreational visits to local economies.

“The National Wildlife Refuge System continues to be a strong economic engine for local communities, supporting tens of thousands of jobs across the country. President Donald Trump is committed to expanding public access to these natural resources and improving recreation infrastructure, so more people have the opportunity to experience our world class refuges and enjoy the great outdoors,” said Bernhardt.

The report analyzes recreational visitation at 162 national wildlife refuges around the country to estimate the economic role refuge visitors play in local economies. This report uses the individual refuge results to estimate the local economic contributions of the entire Refuge System.

The most recent survey found that more than 103 million Americans, or 40% of the United States population age 16 and older, pursued wildlife-related outdoor recreation in 2016 and spent nearly $156.9 billion.

The Banking on Nature study also found:

— National wildlife refuges are seen widely as travel-worthy destinations: 83% of refuge spending was done by visitors from outside the local area — an increase of 9% from the 2011 study.
— Trip-related spending generated $3.2 billion of economic output in regional economies — an increase of 20% from the 2011 report.
— More than 41,000 jobs (up 18% from 2011) and $1.1 billion in employment income (up 22%) were generated.
— The combined economic contribution to communities nationwide is more than six times the $483.9 million appropriated by Congress to the refuge system in fiscal year 2017.

This edition of Banking on Nature is the most comprehensive to date, representing a 70% increase in the number of refuges sampled, compared to the 2011 report.

To read the full report click here