Public lands have long been economic drivers for the vitality of western states, growing increasingly important in Oregon in recent decades. Economic activity derived from public lands now contributes over $12.8 billion dollars to the state annually. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation industry supports 8% of employment in Oregon, but represents 15% of new jobs created in 2012.
Every year Crater Lake National Park receives more visitors than the year before, bringing people from all over the world and bringing their pocketbooks with them. Tourists and local alike visit the park to take in the lake, hike nearby trails, eat at neighboring restaurants and stay at local hotels. In 2015, the park received over 650,000 visitors, supporting 887 jobs and contributing over $71 million to local gateway economies. The numbers will continue to rise, so long as the draw of Crater Lake and the surrounding wildlands are preserved.
Hiking, fishing, hunting, rafting, and wildlife viewing are wildly popular hobbies for many Oregonians, and an integral part of the Oregon way of life. Fishing in Oregon brought in $640 million according to the latest report from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Even more lucrative are wildlife watchers, generating $1.7 billion according to the same report. Protecting these lands for migrating wildlife is not just good for our native wildlife, but good for the local gateway communities nearby.
While areas with significant public lands benefit from tourism and recreation, counties with more protected public land have even greater returns. Headwaters Economics conducted research on protected public lands in the west, and discovered that non-metro counties in the west have a per capita income that is $436 higher for every 10,000 acres of protected federal lands within their boundaries.
With only 4% of the state designated Wilderness, Oregon can do better to protect our natural treasures and a growing outdoor recreation and tourism economy.