By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Republican presidential candidates have a few things to learn about the value of our public lands. A few weeks ago Mitt Romney told the Reno Gazette-Journal that he doesn’t know “what the purpose is” of public lands. Ron Paul called for eliminating public lands by having “the best parts sold off to private owners.” Rick Santorum told Idaho residents that public lands should go “back into the hands of the states and even to the private sector.”
In preparation for the Republican debate in Mesa, Arizona tonight, ThinkProgress Green has organized the most important facts about public lands in the state.
- Some of America’s most treasured natural places are located on Arizona public lands. Grand Canyon National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and Sonoran Desert National Monument are just a few examples of the dozens of places in Arizona that are protected for all of us to enjoy. Arizona’s 22 national parks saw 10.5 million visitors in 2010. And tourism at the Grand Canyon alone supported more than 6,000 jobs in 2009. [NPS, 2012 and Headwaters Economics, 2011]
- Arizonans view public lands as essential to their state’s economy. A recent poll from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project found that 90 percent of voters in Arizona believe that “our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Arizona’s economy.” [Colorado College, 1/30/12]
- Arizonans feel that public lands are essential to their quality of life. The Colorado College poll also asked whether voters agreed with the statement that “our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Arizona’s quality of life.” The response was overwhelming, with 97 percent of Arizonans agreeing. [Colorado College, 1/30/12]
- Interior Department activities in Arizona leverage $2.4 billion and 29,000 jobs every year. This includes oil, gas, mining, recreation, timber, grazing, and other uses. This number does not include lands managed by the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [Interior Department, 6/21/11]
- Recreation opportunities abound on Arizona’s public lands. Families living in Tucson can take a day trip and a picnic to Saguaro National Park and the Santa Catalina Mountains located just 30 minutes outside of the city. City dwellers in the Phoenix area can hit the Tonto National Forest, one of the most visited urban national forests in the U.S. And sportsmen can take advantage of a variety of wide open spaces across the state, featuring unique animals such as javelinas and Gila trout. Recreation on Interior Department lands in Arizona provided $1.97 billion in economic benefits in 2010. [Interior Department, 6/21/11]
- Outdoor recreation – a $5 billion economy in Arizona– often takes place on public lands. Tourists travel to Arizona from around the country and world to experience a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities. The Outdoor Industry Association found that the active outdoor recreation economy contributes over $5 billion annually to Arizona’s economy and supports 82,000 jobs across the state. Hiking, climbing, camping, hunting, fishing, and mountain biking are just a few of the outdoor activities enjoyed on public lands. [Outdoor Industry Association, 2006]
- Hunting and angling—a $1.3 billion economy in Arizona—often take place on public lands. Millions of acres in Arizona are open to hunting for game and waterfowl and to fishing. The Arizona Game and Fish Department reported that sportsmen in the state spend $958 million every year, which creates $1.34 billion in economic impacts and 17,000 jobs. [Arizona Game and Fish Department]
- Oil, gas, and minerals from Arizona’s public lands provide $900 million per year in economic impacts. Mining and drilling on Interior Department-managed lands in Arizona create a tremendous amount of economic opportunity. [Interior Department, 6/21/11]