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Public Lands

Tourism and Public Lands in the West

  • Public lands make up nearly one-third of the U.S. land mass. Over half of all the land area of the West is federal land, owned by the people of the United States.
  • The 13 western states comprise nearly 93% of all the federal land in the United States.
  • Nine of the 13 western states are among the top 13 states in share of total state employment generated by domestic travel and tourism in the United States.
  • Travel and tourism is a major economic force in the West.  Domestic and international travel and tourism expenditures to the 13 western states produce over $120 billion per year into the economy. Tourism is among the three largest industries in each of the western states.
  • States with relatively large per capita tourism receipts are generally more dependent on tourism than are those states with smaller per capita receipts. Clearly, the West is the most tourism dependent region in the United States, comprising 10 of the 13 states in the nation with the highest per capita tourism receipts.
  • Nearly one-third of all the people employed in the U.S. tourism industry work in the 13 western states. Travel and tourism directly employs nearly 2 million people in the West.

National Forest Lands

  • 191 million acres, mostly in the West
  • 900 million recreational visitors per year
  • 124,000 miles of hiking and equestrian trails
  • 4,300 miles of wild and scenic rivers
  • 137 ski areas

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Forests of the Future

By 2000, National Forests will generate $130 billion+of the nation’s gross domestic product

  • $3.5 billion will come from timber
  • $10.1 billion will come from mining
  • $12.9 billion will come from fish and wildlife
  • $97.8 billion will come from recreational tourism

(Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Bureau of Land Management

  • 270 million acres of public lands, mostly in West
  • 65 million recreational visitors per year

(Source: BLM, U.S. Dept. of the Interior)

National Park Service

  • 370 units, 83 million+ acres
  • 270 million+ visitors per year
  • $11.3 billion in direct and secondary revenue

(Source: National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior)

Motorcoach Travelers

  • 23 million people per year take organized bus tours
  • $11.6 billion in direct expenditures

(Source: National Tour Association)

Recreational Vehicle Travel

  • Over 15% of all vehicle miles are "pleasure driving"
  • 475,200 sold in 1995, second highest in 17 years
  • Economic impact of RVers is $15.8 billion

(Source: Recreational Vehicle Industry Association of America)

"Green" Travel

  • 83 percent of travelers support "green" travel companies
  • Willing to spend 6.2% more for travel services and products provided by environmentally responsible travel suppliers

(Source: Travel Industry Association of America)

State Parks

  • 5,334 state parks with 11.7 million+ acres nationwide
  • 752 million people per year
  • $532 million in revenue

(Source: National Association of State Parks Directors)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

  • 460+ water resource development projects
  • 385 million+ people visit adjacent recreational lands
  • Spend $12 billion+ in adjacent communities

(Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

  • 5 million+ acres public land & waters in the West
  • 13,000 miles of recreational shoreline
  • 80 million+ visitors annually

(Source: Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Dept. of the Interior)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • 500 units of the National Wildlife Refuge System
  • 30 million+ visitors per year

(Source: U.S. Dept. of the Interior)

U.S. Federal Highway Administration

  • Maintains 500,000+ miles of roads on federal public lands
  • Maintains 70,000+ miles of local public lands access roads

(Source: U.S. Dept. of Transportation)

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 by the Webmaster