Roger Hollevoet: N.D.’s Great Outdoors need North Dakotans’ support
BISMARCK -- North Dakotans are used to the changing seasons. The annual weather shifts give us many options in our outdoor pursuits. As we're progressing through winter, we see people enjoying the many outdoor activities afforded in our state. Th...
BISMARCK - North Dakotans are used to the changing seasons. The annual weather shifts give us many options in our outdoor pursuits.
As we’re progressing through winter, we see people enjoying the many outdoor activities afforded in our state. These include ice fishing, filling bird feeders to enhance wildlife watching, skiing, snowshoeing, trapping and hunting.
These pursuits provide enjoyment and exercise. They fuel an important economy in North Dakota.
And many of them depend on the natural resources of this four-season state. In North Dakota and around the country, prairies, wetlands, lakes, hills, woodlands, mountains, streams and rivers help drive the outdoor economy.
At the core of the outdoor-rec trade is the outdoor consumer, whose varied interests fuel a robust and innovative economy. People of all genders, ages, shapes, ethnicities and income levels seek meaningful outdoor experiences.
These people are filling their closets and garages with backpacks, tents, outdoor clothing, fishing tackle, boats, ATVs, hunting equipment, optics and cameras.
And there are a lot of them: More than 140 million Americans make outdoor recreation a priority, the Outdoor Industry Association reports.
Their love for the outdoors, exercise, better health and pure enjoyment puts $646 billion into the U.S. economy each year. In turn, this spending provides jobs for 6.1 million Americans, jobs that in turn generate about $40 billion in federal tax revenue and a similar amount in state and local tax revenue.
The outdoor recreation economy has seen strong and steady improvement, growing by about 5 percent a year between 2005 and 2011 -- this during an economic recession.
And behind this industry stand those 140 million Americans, who want and deserve access to quality places to play and enjoy the great outdoors.
The outdoor recreation economy also is important to North Dakota. At least 68 percent of North Dakota residents participate in outdoor recreation each year, the Outdoor Industry Association reports.
North Dakota has spectacular recreation opportunities, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, more national wildlife refuges than any other state and many state parks and wildlife management areas.
In North Dakota, outdoor recreation generates $2.2 billion in consumer spending, $189 million in state and local tax revenue and $606 million in wages and salaries. Teddy Roosevelt National Park brought in nearly 670,000 visitors in 2011.
Fishing and hunting in North Dakota contributed $1.4 billion in annual input to the state’s economy, according to a report by the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University. And the state’s tourism division reported out-of-state visitor spending at $4.8 billion in 2011.
In short, outdoor recreation is important to the nation and to North Dakota. And in North Dakota, much of the success of recreation is due to North Dakota’s natural resources.
Unfortunately, many of these resources are being lost. Grasslands are being turned into cropland, wetlands are being drained, rivers and streams are being degraded.
How do we achieve balance for the future of North Dakota?
The Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks initiated measure would help achieve this balance. A small portion of North Dakota’s share of oil extraction taxes would be used to make grants to public and private groups to aid in water quality, natural flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, parks and outdoor recreation areas, access for hunting and fishing, the acquisition of land for parks and outdoor education for children.
The North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund, established in 2013, also shows great potential to help us preserve and enhance our resources. If the “Extraordinary Places” rule currently being considered by the Industrial Commission passes with reasonable safeguards, it could minimize the negative impacts of oil and gas development.
With at least 68 percent of North Dakotans participating in outdoor recreational opportunities, these are encouraging steps toward protect our natural resources, and they need the support of everyone who values North Dakota’s outdoors.
Hollevoet retired in 2012 as manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Devils Lake Management District.