One of the West’s iconic birds, the Greater Sage Grouse includes among its historic home and heritage significant lands in Northwest Colorado. Now a new study shows that protecting that habitat could secure a $50,000,000 and growing input into the Colorado economy.
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
$1 billion recreation spending fueled by sagebrush, study says
$1 billion in recreation spending helped boost economies in 11 Western states and helped efforts to protect greater sage-grouse habitat last year, according to a study commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts. The $1 billion in recreation spending came mostly from hunters, campers, fishermen, and others.
…The study is the first of its kind to examine the direct and indirect economic impacts of recreation spending tied to U.S. Bureau of Land Management property with habitat for sagebrush-dependent species, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Hunters, campers, fishermen and others spent more than $623 million directly within 50 miles of Bureau of Land Management property in sagebrush ecosystems across more than 61 million acres, said the report by ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm founded in Oregon in 1974.
The findings are also supported by another study, backed by the Nature Conservancy, University of Wyoming, the University of Montana, and the US Geological Survey (among others) that was getting reported the day prior: that protecting lands in the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming for the Greater Sage Grouse is also good for the area’s prized mule deer herds, and that’s good for hunters and local communities alike.
Conservationists long have speculated that protective measures for sage grouse also benefit the more than 350 other species that inhabit sagebrush ecosystems, but this study is the first to quantify the “umbrella” benefits of those actions for migratory mule deer. Those measures include Wyoming’s sage grouse “core area” policy, which limits development in the state’s key grouse habitat, as well as conservation easements, agreements with private landowners to limit development.
“This study underscores the simple idea that keeping sagebrush habitats intact through Wyoming’s core area policy and conservation easements will have additional benefits for mule deer habitat,” says Holly Copeland, a research scientist with The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming and lead author of the paper.
…Both sage grouse and mule deer, two iconic species of the American West, have seen significant population declines in recent years, as a result of drought, energy and residential development, and other habitat fragmentation.
The benefit of protecting sage grouse habitat as a way to strengthen the economic activity supported by the public lands is due in part to its value in protecting this range of habitats for numerous species, as the CSM article notes:
Biologists consider the greater sage grouse to be an indicator species whose population numbers signify the health of the entire sage brush ecosystem that supports a wide array of wildlife.
These benefits of protecting our wildlife and wild places ought not only be measured in dollars and cents. Certainly there is room for the wisdom that embraces an inherent place for the other species of our world. But the numbers, if crunched, are clear and compelling as well. Protecting public lands in Colorado necessary for the survival of wildlife—including the greater sage grouse and big game herds, along with over 300 other species—also secures jobs.
And that makes it a triple win.