New Study Shows Outdoor Recreation Key To 87,000 Arizona Jobs

[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.

Petrified Forest National Park Under Threat from Underfunding

[Source: Environment Arizona]

A new report, The Best of America: Under Threat from Underfunding released today by Environment Arizona and Mayor Jeff Hill of Holbrook showed that visitorship to Petrified Forest National Park is on the rise. But even as Petrified Forest draws more and more visitors, it could face budget cuts in the coming year- leaving it with fewer resources for maintenance, upkeep and stewardship.

“Last year, visitors poured into Petrified Forest to explore one of the world’s largest collections of petrified wood and go hiking in the Painted Desert,” said Bret Fanshaw of Environment Arizona. “Yet just as its popularity grows, Petrified Forest is under threat from underfunding.”

Petrified Forest National Park relies on its operating budget to hire park rangers, for programs like natural history and geology and to maintain general facilities and trails. The proposed National Park Service budget for the coming fiscal year calls for cutting Petrified Forest’s operating budget by $35,000. With 87,899 more people going to the park in 2009, budget cuts will make it harder for park stewards to keep up with increased usage.

“Now is the time Petrified Forest National Park should be best protected,” said Fanshaw. “Instead, it could be facing painful cuts, which could force park keepers to delay maintenance, hire fewer rangers or cut back on programs.”

Mayor Jeff Hill of Holbrook pointed out that Petrified Forest National Park is also an important cornerstone of the region’s economy.

“Petrified Forest National Park is a driving engine of tourism,” noted Mayor Hill. “It is a crucial part of our economy, our culture and our history.”

Similar threats to Arizona’s state parks have been seen in the last year. Parks like Homolovi Ruins are now closed because of major sweeps to conservation funds by the state legislature. Sweeps of $71 million in the last two years nearly forced two-thirds of Arizona’s state parks to close last spring, but many have stayed open temporarily with help from local communities. Advocates noted that the state parks will need to establish a permanent funding source this year or many others will shut down.

“Arizona’s state parks bring in $266 million in tourism revenue every year,” Fanshaw remarked. “Instead of stealing conservation money, the legislature should invest in our parks to keep them open and benefiting local communities.”

The threats to Petrified Forest National Park are also being seen around the country. Environment Arizona’s report reveals that nationwide, two-thirds of national parks, including parks in nearly every state, saw visitorship climb. However, almost three-quarters of parks that saw this increase in visitors last year could face a budget cut in the coming year.

In addition to operations and maintenance funding, national parks are threatened by overdevelopment and pollution on lands adjacent to or within its boundaries. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established to give parks grants for land acquisition as privately-held parcels of land near the park come up for sale. Unfortunately, many parks never receive these funds.

“Just like Petrified Forest, parks throughout America are becoming more popular destinations. Parks still offer affordable family vacations and are ideal places for people of all ages to explore the great outdoors,” said Fanshaw. “We need to give our parks the resources to ensure they are just as majestic in 2999 as they were in 2009.

Environment Arizona urged the Obama administration to prioritize national park preservation in their America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Advocates also called on Senators McCain and Kyl to secure funding for the National Parks Service.

“The Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative aims to protect America’s greatest places and reconnect Americans with the outdoors. Here at Petrified Forest, we see that happening everyday, as more and more families come to see ancient trees turned to stone; now is the time to fulfill the promise of America’s national parks,” said Fanshaw. “We urge our leaders to fully fund the National Park Service and permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund so we can all enjoy what is truly the best of Arizona for generations to come.”


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