Salazar, Leahy Emphasize Economic Value of Outdoor Recreation During Visit to Vermont National Wildlife Refuge


Discuss Progress on Sea Lamprey Control, Heritage Area, and Appalachian Trail Improvements


08/15/2011

Contact: Hugh Vickery, (DOI) 202-208-6416

BURLINGTON, VT — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy in Vermont to highlight the contributions of outdoor recreation to the state's economy and to examine the progress of several priority conservation initiatives under way, including sea lamprey control efforts in Lake Champlain.

Secretary Salazar and Senator Leahy began their day with a visit to Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge and were later joined by Governor Peter Shumlin for a tour of Bibens Ace Hardware in Colchester to showcase the importance of outdoor recreation to the economy of Vermont. Following the tour, Salazar emphasized the estimated $363 billion and 2.2 million jobs annual contribution by Interior’s programs across the United States during an outdoor recreation stakeholders meeting.

“When America invests in the protection of places like Lake Champlain, the Appalachian Trail, and the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, we not only conserve our natural heritage for future generations but we also create jobs and support the economies of communities across the country,” said Salazar, at a local hardware store in Vermont’s Lake Champlain Valley. “With one out of every 20 jobs in America related to outdoor recreation – more than there are doctors, lawyers, or teachers – we all have an interest in strengthening and supporting the tourism and leisure sector. Vermont is forging the way.”

“It's a pleasure to welcome my good friend Secretary Salazar to Vermont and to show him just a little of what the Green Mountain State has to offer,” said Senator Leahy, a senior member of the Interior Department's funding panel in the Senate, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. “The Interior Department is a partner with Vermont on many of our legacy issues. The agencies that Ken oversees – the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS – are all making vital contributions to conservation, outdoor recreation and disaster preparedness in Vermont. The projects that we announced today will go even farther to build Vermont’s economy and protect our ecosystems and cultural heritage on which our economy depends.”

“Lake Champlain is the perfect illustration of the link between a clean environment, a healthy outdoor recreation industry and a strong economy,” said Governor Shumlin. “This is in large part the result of a solid state and federal partnership on issues like water quality and lamprey control. I appreciate the Secretary’s visit to Vermont to stress his commitment on this front, and thank Sen. Leahy and Vermont’s congressional delegation for their leadership in keeping Lake Champlain clean and healthy.”

During their visit to Bibens Ace Hardware, Salazar and Leahy lauded the progress of sea lamprey control efforts in Lake Champlain under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in May among the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the State of Vermont, and the State of New York. Through the use of mechanical barriers, lampricide applications, trapping systems, and other tools, FWS biologists have helped meet sea lamprey management goals for the first time since the program's inception in the 1990s. As the population of parasitic sea lampreys has been brought down, the number and size of salmon and trout in Lake Champlain have been increasing, which has resulted in better fishing and a greater draw for visitors.

Salazar also announced that he has approved the management plan for the Champlain Valley National Heritage Area, which was established in 2006 through legislation sponsored by Senator Leahy. In a special resource study in 1999, the National Park Service estimated that the national heritage area would generate an estimated $50 million of increased economic activity in the area.

In addition, Salazar today recognized the remarkable recent progress toward improving and protecting the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. With federal appropriations through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and with the help of a partnership with a non-profit organization called The Conservation Fund, the National Park Service was able to acquire 4,777 acres along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, 840 acres in Pennsylvania, and 631 acres in Vermont. The trail crosses 14 states, is within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population, and is enjoyed by 4 million hikers a year – many of whom infuse dollars into local economies by lodging, dining and shopping during their visit. All together, outdoor recreation contributes an estimated $730 million to the U.S. economy each year nationwide.

At the conclusion of their visit, Secretary Salazar and Senator Leahy toured the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington. The Center is home to several organizations that conduct research, education, and outreach to promote stewardship of Lake Champlain.

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