Department of the Interior's Activities Generate $360 Billion in Annual Economic Activity, Support 2 Million Jobs, New Report Reveals

Secretary Jewell Highlights Importance of Land and Water Conservation Fund, Outdoor Recreation as Economic Engines

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell capped off a weeklong series of events discussing the President's vision for full, permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund by releasing a report today showing that the various activities of the Department of the Interior contributed $360 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013, supporting more than 2 million jobs in communities across the country.

“This report illustrates to the American people that both conservation and development on public lands continue to support vibrant economic activities in communities across the country,” said Jewell. “It also demonstrates the economic benefit of thoughtful legislation, like the Land and Water Conservation Act of 1964, that took a small amount of revenue generated by oil and gas development offshore and reinvested it in local communities to support conservation and recreation opportunities for all Americans.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior Economic Report for Fiscal Year 2013 found that national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments and other public lands managed by Interior hosted an estimated 407 million recreation visits in 2013 and that these visits alone contributed $41 billion to the economy and supported about 355,000 jobs nationwide.

Jewell emphasized the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to ensure access to outdoor recreation resources for present and future generations, and to provide money to federal, state and local governments to enhance land, water and wetlands for the benefit of all Americans. The primary source of revenue for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf.

“The President has called for full, mandatory funding, recognizing, as Congress did 50 years ago, that when we take something from the earth, we need to give something back,” said Jewell. “It is time we fulfill the promise made to the American people to invest back into our land what we take out of it, enabling all Americans to enjoy the great outdoors through parks and recreation areas.”

The funds enable state and local governments to establish everything from baseball fields to community green spaces; to provide public access to rivers, lakes and other water resources; to expand access to and interpretation of historic and cultural sites; and to conserve natural landscapes for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment.

Only once in the past 50 years has Congress appropriated Land and Water Conservation Fund funding at the full authorized level of $900 million, and the program is set to expire without action from Congress. President Obama's budget request proposes $900 million in discretionary and mandatory funding in fiscal year 2015, and proposes to permanently authorize $900 million in annual mandatory funding for the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture Land and Water Conservation Fund programs beginning in fiscal year 2016.

Jewell emphasized that Land and Water Conservation Fund grants boost local economies and support jobs in the outdoor recreation and tourism industries. A recent report by The Trust for Public Land found that $1 invested in land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund generated a $4 return in nature-based goods and services.

Jewell held events this week in Texas, Alabama, and Virginia to highlight the success of the Land and Water Conservation Fund over the past 50 years.

Prepared by Interior's Office of Policy Analysis, the economic report estimates the economic contributions of the department, including land and water management; energy and mineral development; encouraging tourism and outdoor recreation at national sites; wildlife conservation, hunting and fishing; support for American Indian tribal communities and Insular Areas; and scientific research and innovation.

The report is the fifth in a series of annual economic reports initiated by Interior in 2009. The analysis in the report discusses the effects of the FY 2013 Sequestration, when the federal government experienced automatic spending cuts as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011. For the Interior Department, $828 million was sequestered––$617 million in discretionary appropriations and $211 million in mandatory spending.

The exact effects of the sequestration are difficult to quantify. However, as one example, Interior projected that approximately 300 fewer onshore oil and gas leases were issued in FY 2013 in Western states, including Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Delayed leases resulted in a lost opportunity to collect additional revenues in FY 2013, while also pushing prospective production and its resulting benefits from these leases further into the future.

“The across-the-board cuts mandated by the sequester affected not only government agencies, but the people and communities who benefit from the activities of those agencies,” said Jewell.

The full economic report, which includes a discussion of analysis and methodology, is available on Interior's website HERE.

The website features a state-by-state map that illustrates Interior's contributions across the country. A link to the map is available HERE.

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