How important are national parks, forests, and other federal lands in the economies of Western states? Data recently released in Utah offers a glimpse.
Here are some of the numbers provided by the Utah Office of Tourism:
* Utah’s cash registers rang up $7.4 billion in traveler spending last year.
* A total of about 127,781 Utahns were employed in tourism-related jobs statewide.
* According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, tourism is a key job creator in rural Utah counties, employing 41.9 percent percent of the workforce in Garfield County, 35.6 percent in Grand County and 32.8 percent in Kane County.
In addition to dollars that go into merchants' tills, visitors contributed about $960 million in state and local taxes in 2012. Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said, “This new capital infusion is used to fund education, build roads and improve the quality of life for every resident.”
It was especially interesting to note that income from taxes generated by tourism provided an estimated $1,076 in tax relief for each and every Utah family.
“The growth of Utah’s tourism industry over the past decade has improved rural economies, stimulated entrepreneurship and small business development, in turn, strengthening our rural communities," said Governor Gary Herbert.
A spokesman for his office also said, “As more visitors explore all corners of this great state, there is tremendous opportunity for economic development in Utah’s rural communities. We’re proud to be working closely with our partners at Governor’s Office of Economic Development to fulfill the governor’s initiative to bring lasting, sustainable jobs and economic development to all of Utah’s 29 counties.”
But there are still loud voices in Utah calling for “taking back” federal lands within the state.
2012, Utah tourism by the numbers:
• Travelers and tourists spent $7.4 billion in 2012, a 7.8 percent increase over 2011.
• Last year, domestic and international visitation climbed 6.4 percent, to 23.5 million.
• Travelers in 2012 contributed $960 million to state and local taxes, providing every Utah household with an estimated $1,076 tax relief.
• There are an estimated 127,781 tourism-related jobs statewide, a 3 percent increase from the year before.
• Utah’s five national parks – Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion – continue to draw visitors from around the world, topping 6.5 million visits in 2012.
• Utah’s 14 world-class ski resorts had more than 4 million skier days in 2012, up 6 percent from 2011.
Sources: Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, National Park Service, Ski Utah, D.K. Shifflett, Utah Office of Tourism, Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah
Six counties where tourism employs more than one quarter of the workforce:
* Garfield, which claims parts of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: 41.9 percent
* Summit, home to the Deer Valley, Park City, and Canyons ski resorts: 38.5 percent
* Grand, home to Arches National Park: 35.6 percent
* Kane, home to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, parts of Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, and part of Glen Canyon NRA, 32.8 percent
* Wayne, home to the bulk of Capitol Reef National Park, part of Canyonlands NP and part of Glen Canyon NRA: 29.3 percent
* Daggett, home to part of the Ashley National Forest, part of Flaming Gorge NRA: 28.9 percent
Source: Utah Department of Workforce Services