[Source: Valley Forward, 5-06-2011] – Arizona Businesses, Outdoor Recreation Groups Say New Figures Show Why Lawmakers Should Protect Wilderness and Tourism Initiatives
More than 87,000Arizonajobs and $371 million in state tax revenues are supported by “human-powered recreation” such as hiking, mountain biking and camping, according to a new study commissioned by the Access Fund, a national climbing advocacy organization.
The report from two Arizona economists, both Arizona State University alumni, shows that legislative efforts to cut funding for state and national parks and land preservation, which support human-powered recreation, could put greater pressure onArizona’s hospitality industry and rural areas, which both depend on outdoor adventurers.
“Outdoor recreation is critical toArizona’s hospitality and tourism economy,” said Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association, a 42-year old environmental public interest organization that counts many ofArizona’s largest corporations, small businesses and government agencies as members. “Our elected leaders must understand thatArizona’s recreation areas do more than fuel healthy lifestyles – they fuel our economy. Cutting our investment in state and national lands puts the brakes on any economic recovery here inArizona.”
Specifically, the study shows:
· 38 percent of human-powered recreation outings result in an overnight stay.
· Human-powered recreation produces $5.3 billion in annual retail sales inArizonaand generates nearly $371 million in state tax revenue.
· Spending on human-powered recreation activities is responsible for 12 percent ofArizona’s total retail economy.
· Human-powered recreation directly suports nearly 87,000Arizonajobs, and indirectly supports another 100,000 jobs.
“We know that climbers, hikers, bikers and boaters leave an important economic impact on the local economy, but we wanted to be able to quantify that impact as much as possible,” said Brady Robinson, executive director of the Access Fund.
Will Cobb, who heads the Northern Arizona Climbers Coalition, regularly sees the impact of outdoor recreation on local economies. “When someone takes their family or friends to a national park or recreation area in Arizona, they stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and spend money with local gas stations and retailers—to say nothing of the money they spend with tourism and outfitting businesses,” he said.
Several efforts at the state and federal level threaten Arizona’s tourism industry, but none more directly than potential cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Some in Congress aim to drastically cut the 40-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides for local communities to use federal resources to preserve outdoor recreation areas for hiking, fishing, biking and other outdoor activities. LWCF uses no federal discretionary dollars and is deficit-neutral; the LWCF has been funded entirely by oil and gas royalties since its implementation. Cuts to LWCF would not reduce the federal deficit, but would be damaging toArizona’s tourism industry.
The LWCF helps fund state projects submitted and suggested by the State ofArizona, relying on “local control” for development and implementation plans. Specifically, the LWCF includes several current and upcoming projects:
· The 2011 federal budget includes more than $13 million for sixArizonarecreation projects, including the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and thePetrified Forest National Park.
· The 2012 federal budget includes nearly $8 million forArizonaprojects including Shield Ranch and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
· Past LWCF projects include the Phoenix Metro Area Bikeway Development, bicycle trail developments inFlagstaff, the Scottsdale City Bikeways, the Tempe Sports Complex, the Municipal Golf Course in Casa Grande and Prescott CityPark.
On the heels of the release of this new economic study, Arizona’s small business owners—many of whom rely on human-powered recreation—are asking Arizona’s elected officials to protect tourism-related jobs. To obtain a copy of the full report, click here.
ABOUT VALLEY FORWARD Valley Forward has been bringing business and civic leaders together for more than four decades to convene thoughtful public dialogue on regional issues and to improve the environment and sustainability of Valley communities. The organization is now taking its mission statewide through an Arizona Forward initiative.
ABOUT THE ACCESS FUND The Access Fund is a national advocacy organization that keeps U.S.climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Now celebrating its 20th year, the Access Fund supports and represents over 2.3 million climbers nationwide.