2022 journal article
Economic contributions of wildlife management areas in North Carolina
FOREST POLICY AND ECONOMICS, 140.
Wildlife management areas (WMAs) provide a wide range of ecosystem services. Among these services, hunting and fishing often make the most obvious contribution to local and state economies through the expenditures of the hunters and anglers. However, the total economic contributions of WMAs also include other forms of recreation that are generally less visible, unlicensed, and less well understood. Quantifying the size of the economic contribution from all recreationists can inform decisions about investment in and management of public lands. To this end, we estimated the direct, indirect, and induced economic contributions of recreation on protected land managed by the state of North Carolina (NC) primarily for hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation (hereafter WMAs). We collected data on visitation and conducted in-person intercept surveys at 9 WMAs to estimate the number of visits and expenditures per visit for people engaged in activities that required licenses (e.g., hunting) and activities that did not (e.g., hiking and bird watching). We estimated annual visitation on the 9 study WMAs, accounting for differences in location, hunting season, day of the week, and weather. We then predicted annual visitation at all 94 WMAs in NC using a predictive regression model. Most visitors did not engage in any licensed activities, and those visitors spent more per trip on average ($119.83) and had greater variability in expenses than visitors engaged in licensed activities ($84.19). We used the estimates of total annual visits, expenditures per visit, and the distribution of those expenditures across sectors to calculate the economic contribution of recreation on each of the 9 study WMAs and on the entire WMA system in NC. Recreation was responsible for approximately 2200 jobs, $84 million USD in annual labor income, and $140 million USD in value added annually in NC. The majority of this contribution was due to visits made by users not engage in licensed uses of WMAs, as those users were more numerous, spent more per trip, and were more likely to visit WMAs in peri-urban areas with more economic linkages than rural areas.