National Governments, Entrepreneurial Conservation, And Increased Awareness Of Nature’s Value


A view from the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr/NPS

This is our favorite kind of report:


In 2014, more than the National Park Service hosted more than 292 million visitors. The system, which covers more than 84 million acres divided among 401 sites, includes some of the United States’ most iconic tourist destinations: the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Everglades. And when people visit those sites, they spend money. For the past 25 years, the National Park Service has been measuring and reporting the economic effects of park tourism. (The first data collection effort on visitor attendance itself was conducted in 1904, when six national parks reported 120,690 visitors.)

The latest report, covering the year 2014, has just been released by NPS and US Geological Survey researchers, along with a companion website that includes a variety of data visualizations.

The 292 million visits in 2014 represented an increase of nearly 20 million over 2013. In part, that’s because 2013 had a decline in visits owing to a 16-day government shutdown, closures in some parks for repairs following Superstorm Sandy, and the closure of the Washington Monument due to earthquake damage. However, 2014’s increase in visitation wasn’t entirely related to 2013’s slump: Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, and Glacier national parks all saw record-breaking visitation.

Interestingly, the visitor spending report doesn’t actually cover money spent within the parks themselves. Instead, the report’s aim is to quantify tourist dollars spent in so-called “gateway regions,” which are defined as communities within 60 miles of a park. In that way, the report offers hard data on the ways in which the national park system contributes to the broader economy both in terms of dollar value and in terms of jobs…

Read the whole article here.

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