New statistics released today by the U.S. Department of the Interior confirmed what most Wyomingites already know: national parks are big economic drivers.
The statistics showed that Wyoming's national parks and monuments brought in $616.6 million in visitor spending in 2010, the most recent data available. Wyoming ranked sixth nationally for visitor spending, representing more than 5 percent of the national total of more than $12.1 billion. Only parks in California — $1.31 billion, the District of Columbia — $1 billion, North Carolina — $739 million, Arizona — $700 million and Utah $617 million, brought in more visitor spending.
Beyond the money brought into Wyoming, the DOI estimates that Wyoming's National Parks supported more than 9,100 full- and part-time jobs in local economies surrounding parks in 2010.
"Places like the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty take our breath away and inspire us with their beauty and history, but our national parks also serve as anchors for our nation's economy," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a release. "People who visit parks need transportation, places to stay and meals to eat — all of which support businesses and provide jobs in local communities."
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis echoed Salazar's sentiment.
"What this report shows is that America's national parks are also critical economic engines, not only for our neighbors in gateway communities, but for our entire country," he said. "The national parks return more than $10 for every $1 the American taxpayer invests in the National Park Service; that makes good stewardship sense and good business sense."
Yet both administrators warned of March 1 sequestration changes that could result in reduced hours of operation for visitor centers, shorter seasons and possible closures of campgrounds, hiking trails and other recreational areas "when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors, staff and resources."
The report showed Grand Teton National Park led the pack for visitor spending in Wyoming by bringing in $424 from its 2.6 million visitors. Yellowstone brought in about a million more visitors, but generated about $90 million less in visitor spending, likely because of its distance from large communities. Devils Tower National Monument brought in $15.3 million from its 436,000 visitors in 2010.
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