The hikers, bicyclists, hunters, horseback riders, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts who use Bureau of Land Management lands each year in northwest California are generating tens of millions of dollars and supporting hundreds of jobs in local communities, according to an ECONorthwest report released Thursday.
Analyzing local economic and visitor data from 2015 — the most recent data available at the time — at the federal bureau’s Arcata and Redding field offices, the Pew Charitable Trusts-funded report states “quiet,” or nonmotorized, recreational activities on bureau lands have generated more than $41 million and supported hundreds of local jobs.
“Those are direct purchases, people stopping at the store to buy groceries, rent equipment or hire guides,” ECONorthwest Senior Economic Consultant Kristin Lee said. “Then that spending circulates in the economy and multiplies as those dollars become paychecks for people, business income for shop owners and income for suppliers of goods and services. The economic output associated with all that spending was approximately $50 million.”
Pacific Outfitters co-owner Aaron Ostrom said in a Thursday statement the report highlights that a recreation economy is “critical” for local businesses. “It’s why we now have three stores in two counties ... and business has never been better,” Ostrom wrote.
The report was released as the bureau’s Arcata and Redding field offices are working to update a master plan that sets guidelines on how they manage their nearly 400,000 acres of land.
The plan, formally known as the Northwest California Integrated Resource Management Plan, addresses everything from recreational activities, wildlife management, livestock grazing, mining, creation of special recreational areas such as the Samoa Dunes, and protection of endangered species to name a few, according to the bureau’s Arcata Field Office Planning Environmental Coordinator David Fuller.
“It sets the course for how the lands are going to be managed in the broad, big picture sense,” Fuller said. As recreational uses are a major focus of this master plan, Fuller said the Pew report provides new insight that will help inform the bureau’s decision-making. Lee stated that Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned the northwestern California report knowing the plan update process was occurring.
Out-of-area visitors to the bureau’s northwest California lands generated the most money for local communities in 2015, spending about $29 million of the $41 million in direct spending recorded that year, the report states.
Recreational users also supported 570 jobs and generated $27 million in wages, salaries and benefits for people whose livelihood is connected with these recreational uses, according to the report. “These recreational tourists eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and shop our local downtown areas,” Redwood Region Economic Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Foster said in a statement Thursday. “I’ve been in banking and small business development for over 20 years and I have seen directly how these visitors contribute significantly to our local economies. Continuing to manage these lands with recreation is key to the health of our local businesses.”
This data does not include visits to the Headwaters Forest Reserve and the King Range National Conservation Areas in Humboldt County as those two regions are managed under separate plans, Fuller said.
Northwest California was one of several regions the Oregon-based economic consulting firm ECONorthwest was commissioned to review by the Pew Charitable Trusts. ECONorthwest released similar reports for areas in Utah and Colorado this year. The report for northwestern California bureau lands demonstrated that these quiet forms of recreation were the dominant use by visitors over their motorized counterparts, such as those who drive quads and snowmobiles.
For the bureau’s Arcata and Redding field offices, 81 percent of the 1.29 million recreational visits to their lands in 2015 were for nonmotorized activities, according to the report. This is higher than the average of the 11 Western states, which was about 62 percent, Lee said. Based on the public input, Fuller said that the bureau could begin to prioritize certain lands for recreational uses as part of their resource management plan update. These management plans are updated every 20 to 25 years, Fuller said. The plans for the Arcata and Redding field offices were last updated in the early 1990s.
The bureau has held several public meetings at the start of the year to gauge the public’s interest on how they want their land to be used. The bureau is now working to draft several options based on this input. Fuller said these management options will likely be released to the public this winter. The bureau plans to have a final environmental review and plan in place in 2019, Fuller said.
The full report can be found online at www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2017/07/californiaquietrecreportjuly2017final.pdf
--By Will Houston, Eureka Times-Standard
Photo by David Fuller
07/20/17, 9:40 PM PDT
More information on the Northwest California Integrated Resource Management Plan can be found at go.usa.gov/xkJYd
To see the original article and photo in the Times-Standard News CLICK HERE.