MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is one of the most visited wilderness areas in the U.S., with nearly 150,000 visitors annually, a press release from Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness reported.
The economic impact BWCAW visitors have on the neighboring communities has never been scientifically studied, and the last impact analysis of a U.S. Wilderness area was two decades ago. Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness (FBWW), in partnership with Dr. Evan Hjerpe of Conservation Economics Institute and Quetico-Superior Foundation, today announced the findings of the first-ever regional economic impact study on the BWCAW.
The study, conducted during the 2016 summer tourism season, found that out-of-region visitors spent $57 million in the three surrounding counties: Cook, Lake and St. Louis. This spending led to the creation of nearly 1,000 jobs and overall economic output of $77 million in one summer season.
“We’ve always believed that Boundary Waters visitor spending creates sustainable economic opportunities and jobs in the surrounding communities,” stated Paul Danicic, executive director, FBWW. “The study scientifically validates that the BWCAW is critical to the economic health of Northeastern Minnesota and will continue to have a significant impact for years to come.”
Study Reveals Sustainable Economic Development in Neighboring Communities
Visitor spending in BWCAW neighboring communities extends far beyond expenditures. The total economic output of $77 million generated approximately $14.4 million in local, state and federal taxes. These taxes funnel directly back into these counties for community needs such as road improvement and emergency services.
Another key finding of the study was the impact on jobs in the local communities. Nearly 1,000 full and part time jobs are created through outdoor recreation and nature tourism. These positions span 127 regional industries and provide more than $25 million in income. Some of the industries affected most by visitors are in hospitality, retail and government; employment opportunities that are considered stable and sustainable over time due to the low-impact they have on the BWCAW ecosystem.
“The BWCAW is a unique Wilderness ecosystem that attracts thousands of outdoor recreationists and brings substantial money into rural economies,” said Dr. Hjerpe. “This study illustrates that Wilderness visitation can be an essential component of regional economic development, one that preserves the very resource that provides for sustainable streams of income in the region.”
The study was conducted with specific parameters to draw precise conclusions on the exact impact out-of-region visitors have on the rural, neighboring communities. Findings were extrapolated from data collected from May to September 2016 and does not include economic impacts from winter visitors, spending from residents or market impacts related to BWCAW art sales, amenity migration effects or property value.
SOURCE: Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness