Recreation on public lands not so big an economic generator

freeThanks to Ron Roizen for finding this op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Here’s a link and below is an excerpt ..

The sweeping landscapes and unparalleled vistas found on public land in Utah provide outstanding recreational experiences for both Utahns and those who visit our state. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, annual trip-related expenditures in Utah total over $12 billion, supporting an estimated 122,000 jobs and providing $3.6 billion in income. Make no mistake about it, outdoor recreation is big business in Utah.

But these numbers hide an important dichotomy: many, if not most, trip-related expenditures do not occur in the places people actually recreate.

As an example, my wife and I recently spent a week touring southeastern Utah, thoroughly enjoying our visits to Monument Valley, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges National Monuments, and the San Rafael Swell. We brought a week’s worth of food and beverage with us (purchased in northern Utah) and spent most of our nights at dispersed, no fee campsites.

Sharon’s note: From my perspective as an FS retiree, this is a reason that IMHO folks should have to pay for a dispersed camping sticker with the proceeds going to supporting management of dispersed camping recreation. $60 a year for one agency or 100 for both (FS/BLM).

9 Comments

  1. I fear that such fees would likely go to closing many of those dispersed camping areas, or drive away more visitors. Those fees would also be diverted to law enforcement, to hire more “Secret Squirrels” and ticket writers. Sounds kind of like Demo Fee #2. I guess the solution, for me, would be to only camp during the off hours. “In after 6, out before 8”?

  2. Since when are public lands supposed to be a way to make money? I’d rather fund all campgrounds via congress and make all camping free including overflow areas and dispersed. No one should ever have to pay just to access our public lands.

  3. Birds do it, bees do it, state parks do it…charge access fees that is. And believe me…the bathrooms in the state parks are WAY cleaner. Why should they not be self sustaining? Why should the 99% subsidize the 1%? Why should my crippled a** subsidize clearing deadfall from a wilderness trail, when .5% of forest visitors use said wilderness trail? Somehow I don’t see the poor family of four living under the poverty line…using wilderness areas. More like the rich white Republican NRA card toting hunter who wants that wilderness hunting experience with guide provided gourmet cooking. I know…I’m heartless…I don’t feel good about myself

    The newstory above is spot on.

    It’s always been a burr under my saddle how the USFS does their “recreation surveys.” I wanna know how many people really use wilderness…put up a “trail cam” and lets get a real count. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen these surveys note that “20% of respondents say they visit the forest for hiking” and only “2% for ATV or mountain biking.” And yet, when I’m drivin around the hills, all I see are ATV’ers and no cars parked by the signs that say “road closed for non-motorized recreation.” It’s because when people are polled by that nice young blonde summer help….it makes them “feel good about themselves” to tell the pollster that “I’m hiking,” when the only hiking they’ll really do is from the car to the overlook and back. At least they’re honest about “driving for pleasure.” My next favorite is “bird watching”….ya, put me down for that one down too.

  4. response to somsai. I feel that recreation economics is a big deal because recreation income is used as an advocacy tool for funding recreation opportunities and funding sources, such as LWCF, which is up for re-authorization by Congress. States also fund federal recreation projects for the benefit of its citizens; when state legislators approve budgets, both state and federal recreation is a part of that budget.

    So in order to fund those campgrounds, Congress needs to be convinced that there’s something in it for constituents; like a better economy.

    Not sure I agree that these dollars are distributed enough to boost the economy of small communities; gear industry, big box stores, etc. Yeah; but little towns in the mountains – not so sure about that.

  5. A couple of responses:

    I don’t agree with you, Som. Congress takes money from everyone’s pockets, including poor people who can’t afford to go to national forests with dispersed camping. Unfortunately, I have seen condoms, used diapers and a variety of less-of a danger to public health kinds of trash left at dispersed camping spots. It seems unlikely that a host of volunteers will pick those up.

    And to Larry’s point, it seems to me that this is likely to go one of two ways. Trash leads to trashy appearance and unhappy locals.. who can, if they are from California advocate for the Park Service to take over.. no dogs, no dispersed camping. Or the FS can simply close the area to dispersed camping. I would rather pay part of my own way than see that option ultimately closed. To me dispersed camping during hunting season and with drinking and guns and little police presence enforces my optimistic view of human nature and I would hate to see it go away or become unlawful due to the lack of bucks (anyone priced what folks spend on an elk camp?).

    Finally, to Kim’s point. The Outdoor Industry Association has a policy arm https://outdoorindustry.org/advocacy/government-affairs/
    that seems to be focused on promoting sales of their equipment (not faulting them for it) but the jobs and economic benefits accrue mostly in urban areas.

    Previously on this blog I’ve wondered why the different recreational entities couldn’t get together and promote a cohesive (strategy? 😉 and comprehensive approach to federal lands recreation. If I were Queen, I would make Interior and Ag work together and establish an advisory committee made up of all the recreation interests, including dispersed camping lovers of various stripes. Because apparently the interests are not going to work together on their own.

    New readers might be interested in some previous posts on this
    http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/05/13/sustainable-recreation-usda-forest-service-bites-the-hand-that-feeds-them/

    http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/04/16/forest-budgets-recreation-and-the-need-for-a-recreation-oriented-service-first/

    http://forestpolicypub.com/2012/09/28/lawsuit-day-use-fees-and-campgrounds/

    or you can just put “recreation” in the search box to the right.

    • The cheapest and easiest way for the Forest Service to deal with it is to create more “Camping in designated spots only” areas, without having to actually close and block those nice spots, while handing out tickets to the violators. I don’t think that campers would like that. I do a lot of camping in those dispersed camping areas, and also heed the “No Camping” signs. Sometimes there aren’t a lot of options, and I end up driving on backroads, looking for a spot for my tent.

  6. Economist Paul Jakus pretty much nailed it.
    The REI’s buy all their freezedry in town. Two anecdotes prove this. First there is Louise Liston’s classic riff — the new age tourist visiting the Grand Staircase — comes to Podunk with 20 bucks stuffed in their shorts and when they leave a week later, they’ve changed neither.
    Second was a visit to Winifred by a pal of mine. He lost his alternator, after hours the local auto parts guy came in, dug around in the back and found one. Then he filled up. And because he’s a country boy they all gathered around to BS and the story came of how some muffins in a Subaru were out of gas after hours. Owner comes in, fires up the pumps, the muffins buy just enough gas, ten bucks gross, to get back to the world, and leave.
    On the other hand, the traditional recreation types, the “Cabelas” faction, dump more money into the local eatery (one), buy tank fulls, etc etc.
    Nowadays, there are card pumps there. Next time I go, I’m gonna ask the owner if he sees lots of small transactions after hours. It would be an interesting demographic to study.
    Bottom line is, the politically-correct “recreation” segment is a complete loser for rural economies. At best, it is gravy on top of a sound, meat-and-potatoes economic base. If all you have is gravy, you have a problem.

    • Most folks I see logging buy their gas and food locally while they are operating (longer than a week or weekend vacation) pus some equipment. If they live in the community, their source of support pays for all their family’s stuff, health care and taxes. Plus that person plus the relatives they support contribute to (local) communities through volunteering…

      Sawmills that I see (still) around are mostly owned by local folks but are certainly staffed by them. I’m talking what I’ve seen in South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado. Not sure what you mean by Fire Service providers.

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