Bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Photo: Flickr, thronps
The over 640 million acres of federal public land benefit wildlife, recreation enthusiasts, and local residents every single day. They provide wildlife habitat, drinking water, and opportunities to challenge ourselves in the outdoors.
Despite these many values, some state legislatures and members of Congress think that public lands are little more than a real estate deal they can hastily undertake to cash a one-time check. As the owners of the public lands that continue to provide value every year, we have to stand up against attacks on our public lands that would hand them over to private interests.
The return on investment in public lands is truly staggering. Many of these areas provide ecosystem services, the benefits that wildlife and ecosystems provide people. These resources continue to be a sustained, consistent driver of economic activity. Public lands support the growing outdoor recreation economy. The outdoor recreation economy generates over $646 billion annually, and continued to grow even through recessions.
Public lands are popular. The National Park System had over 273 million visitors in 2013 and the National Forest System had roughly 160 million recreational visitors from all over
Some state legislatures and members of Congress see our public lands as nothing more than a source of revenue. However, they overlook these economic impacts to focus merely on real estate
values and oil and gas production. These economic values, public-private partnerships, and polling data all point to the continual benefits of our public lands.
Frank Sturges serves as Public Lands Policy Fellow at the National Wildlife Federation in Washington, DC. He is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Natural Resources and Environment and a Master’s of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Originally from Charlotte, N.C., Frank's favorite outdoor activity is portaging a canoe.