Outdoor Economy

Do Budget Cuts to Parks, Nature Reserves and Wildlife Refuges Really Save Money?

Outdoor Recreation and Tourism and the Real Value of Parks and Natural Resources

As sequestration goes into effect, deep budget cuts are being felt by parks, nature reserves and wildlife refuges.  The staffs at these facilities are considering whether to close down their nature centers, lay off personnel, and shut down certain programs for the year in order to save money.

Are they really saving money?

In the summer of 2012, I went to a seminar and heard a presentation by Michael Kirschman who was making the economic case for parks and natural areas.

The argument for keeping parks and natural areas funded have often been made mainly on visitation numbers and “quality of life” issues without real quantifiable data to show their economic value in other areas.

Mecklenburg County Staff spent time compiling real data to show the economic and health benefits of parks and natural areas in real numbers.

Their report findings covered several areas including water quality, air quality, real estate value, tourism, direct revenue, and health.

Some of what they found was that the nature preserves in their county:

  • filters and helps to reduce 27000 gallons of run-off per year to save potential $58+ million dollar infrastructure costs,
  • removes $2.2 million worth of pollution from the air
  • is responsible for 20% increase in property values leading to $1.2 million in additonal tax revenue
  • creates $8.8 million in direct and indirect tourism revenue
  • significantly reduced the $300 billion businesses spent on stress related health issues

This adds up to a combined $69million/year benefit and 350% return on investment of what is being spent on the nature preserves.

The article goes on to quote studies that have produced similar results in Philadelphia and New York that are responsible for billions in revenue and thousands of jobs. [see attached article: ParksValueMorethanJustAesthetic]

The real value of natural resources is not always obvious.

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