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Report touts dollars from outdoors recreation vs. energy

Published May 29, 2012 10:08 am

Environment • Sportsmen's alliance says economic benefits of hunting, fishing, wildlife are stable and long lasting.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Yes, energy development pumps money and jobs into the economy, but so do fishing, hunting and other recreational pursuits.

That's a message Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development wants to get to public-land managers and political leaders with a newly released report.

The tricky part, though, can be placing economic values on various land uses.

The report, prepared by Southwick Associates, gives the group something to hold up when leaders are discussing permits and regulations for extracting natural resources on public lands.

"Those decision makers have a long laundry list of things they need to do, and matters concerning fish and wildlife-related issues get pushed lower on the list because we don't have information to back up the value," said Neil Thagard, Western energy coordinator for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. "This brings that value closer to the surface and moves fish and wildlife closer to the top of their list of things of concern."

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals led by the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The alliance's goal is to "conserve irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands."

The report — titled "Conserving Lands and Prosperity" — states that preserving fish and wildlife populations and natural/scenic areas helps drive long-term economic growth in the Rocky Mountains.

That fiscal impact comes courtesy of jobs as visitors seek places to play on public lands close to rural communities. Sometimes, those visitors opt to move to those areas. Other times, companies shift their operations to be close to these lands to help lure and keep employees. Witness downtown Ogden, with its growing stable of outdoor-industry operations.

Sometimes, the alliance says, energy development and its impacts scare off individuals, families and companies from visiting or staying in a rural area.

The economic benefits of recreation and tourism-based industries, the report says, are more reliable and long term than energy interests with their booms and busts.

But Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for the Western Energy Alliance, said those cycles are "artificial" and blamed government rules for contributing to industry's ups and downs.

Sgamma, citing a recently released report from SWCA Environmental Consultants, pointed to the impact 22 proposed oil and natural gas projects would have in the West.

That study showed those projects could create 120,905 jobs, $8 billion in wages, $27.5 billion in economic activity and $139 million in government revenue every year.

The report from Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development included a case study showing that 10 percent of the jobs in Cody, Wyo. — where Thagard lives — were tied to fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing. The report says spending on those activities in and around Cody generates about $30.1 million annually.

Case studies on other Western communities, including some in Utah, are in the works.

"This is not meant to be a one-versus-the-other scenario," said Rob Southwick, of Southwick Associates, which compiled the report. "The majority of sportsmen and outdoor recreationalists support energy development and are often the best customers just out of the necessity to get to their favorite public lands. What the report says is this is not jobs versus the environment. If we take care of the environment during energy development, we can also have jobs tied to other uses of the land."

brettp@sltrib.com

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To read the report, go to http://www.sportsmen4responsibleenergy.org