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No state benefits more than Utah in the number of rural residents who have jobs because of tourism and recreational activities on lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the federal agency said on Wednesday.
Almost 15,000 rural Utahns and 20,319 people statewide can attribute their jobs to tourism-related activities fostered by the Interior Department. Those activities attracted more than 21 million visitors last year, generating $1.7 billion in economic output.
In releasing the report, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said it affirms his agency "creates and supports private-sector jobs and economic growth in Utah and all the states."
In addition, he said, the figures "underscore how investing in areas such as recreation, conservation and energy development can play an important role in getting our economy moving again."
State officials welcomed the report. They have known empirically for years that tourism on public lands is big business for Utah. Just how big has been hard to quantify.
"It's always been a challenge for us to get data on the recreational use of federal lands, information that is so vital to our economy," said Utah Office of Tourism spokeswoman Traci Cayford. "Tourism is the lifeblood of many of our rural communities and national park gateway towns. We market our state by promoting our outdoor assets. So it is helpful to have any additional data."
The report showed that Interior Department support for energy and mineral development generated by far the most money for Utah's economy $5.5 billion.
Recreation was second at $1.7 billion, while grants such as payments in lieu of taxes were a distant third at $272 million. The Interior Department also paid $130 million in salaries to Utahns last year.
"One of the key reasons Utah is leading the nation out of the recession is the diversity of our economy," said Gov. Gary Herbert. "Outdoor recreation is one of our seven key economic clusters or areas of focus. This report confirms that the multiple use of our public lands is beneficial in many ways."
The Interior report said the National Park Service attracted 8.7 million visitors last year, employing 8,619 people and generating an economic output of $597 million.
Bodies of water managed by the Bureau of Reclamation were visited by another 6.1 million guests, supporting 6,146 jobs and $557 million in economic activity. Bureau of Land Management lands also drew 6.1 million visitors, leading to 5,486 jobs and economic output of $512 million.
In the Moab area alone, the report said, Arches National Park attracted just under 1 million visitors in 2009, generating $100 million in spending and supporting 1,544 jobs.
A U.S. Interior Department report said the agency's economic contributions nationally in 2010 were:
Recreation and tourism • 439 million visits, supporting 388,000 jobs and $47 billion in economic activity.
Energy and minerals • 1.3 million jobs, $246 billion in economic activity.
Water, timber, forage • 370,000 jobs, $48 billion in economic activity.
Grants and payments • $4.7 billion, supporting 114,000 jobs and $10.2 billion in economic activity.
Infrastructure investment • Totaled $2 billion, generating $5.5 billion in economic activity and supporting 41,000 jobs.