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Stats Show Public Lands Boost Local Economies

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches 2,180 miles from Maine to Georgia. (Juliancolton/Wikimedia Commons)
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches 2,180 miles from Maine to Georgia. (Juliancolton/Wikimedia Commons)
July 17, 2017

NEW YORK -- Public lands, national parks and monuments add billions to the economy and create thousands of jobs in New York, according to a recent analysis.

Saying their size and number interfere with development, the Trump administration ordered a review of 27 national monuments to either shrink or eliminate protected areas.

In response, congressional Democrats released a state-by-state fact sheet on the economic impact of public lands. It showed that in New York, 23 national parks attract almost 19 million visitors a year, increasing the state's economic output by more than $850 million.

Stancy DuHamel, co-chair of the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community, said that's a lifeline in some rural parts of the state.

"We have people that come up from New York City, spend money in the area," DuHamel said. "That helps our small businesses, having people come up for weekends to hike the trail and stay in hotels, eat in restaurants."

Overall, outdoor recreation generated almost $34 billion in consumer spending in New York in 2012.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, ranking member of the Joint Economic Committee that issued the fact sheet, noted that, in his home state of New Mexico, two areas designated as national monuments may be threatened by reduction or elimination.

"We have seen tourism go up, we've seen visitation go up, we've seen local gross receipts and lodgers' taxes and business development because of these monuments,” Heinrich said. "So to turn that back would be an enormous mistake."

According to the fact sheet, every tax dollar invested in the National Park Service yields $10 in returns.

DuHamel said protecting the 2,000-mile-long Appalachian Trail yields more than figures on a ledger sheet.

"It protects forested uplands, water quality, habitat, and it is an unparalleled outlet for enjoying nature,” DuHamel said.

The Department of the Interior is expected to issue a decision on the 27 national monuments currently under review by late August.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY