Non-motorized recreation on BLM lands contributes $54 million to Arkansas River Valley economy

Michel CooperLast Update : Tuesday 20 June 2017 - 10:00 PM
Non-motorized recreation on BLM lands contributes $54 million to Arkansas River Valley economy

Non-motorized recreation on Bureau of Land Management mountains around the Upper Arkansas River Valley contributed more than $54.3 million to local economies according to a “quiet use” economic impact report released Tuesday.

The report, prepared by ECONorthwest economic consulting firm and paid for by The Pew Charitable Trusts, showed more than three-quarters of all recreational visits to BLM-managed land on the eastern flank of the Continental Divide along the Arkansas River were for “quiet recreation,” meaning the visitors did not twist a throttle or stomp a gas pedal during their visit.

Those 1.23 million visits — tallied from BLM 2015 visitor data — accounted for $54.3 million in spending, with $39 million of that coming from non-local visitors. The report showed those hikers, climbers, paddlers and cyclists supported 693 jobs in the rural region.

“This study is the latest evidence that outdoor recreation is not only a key reason why we call Colorado home but also fuels our local economies,” David Leinweber, the owner of Angler’s Covey flyfishing shop in Colorado Springs and co-founder of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, said in a statement released with the economic report.

The report comes as the BLM drafts its Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan. That massive guiding document — the March preliminary report is 608 pages — balances resource protection against demands for a wide array of recreation, livestock grazing and energy development on 658,000 surface acres and 3.3 million acres of mineral estate managed by the BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office.

The document will guide management decisions for years to come. It blends recreation, energy leases and motorized uses with dozens of areas of critical concern, including special designations like scenic byways, wild and scenic river stretches, wilderness and wilderness-study areas. Those areas are meant to protect historic, cultural and scenic values as well as wildlife and natural habitat.

The quiet-use report showed a total of 1.6 million visitor days to the BLM land managed by the Royal Gorge Field Office, which accounted for about  20 percent of all the visits to the BLM’s 8.3 million acres in Colorado in 2015. The BLM breaks down those Arkansas River Valley visits by activity, with camping (28 percent), riding off-road vehicles (16 percent), hiking (12 percent) and climbing (8 percent) ranked as the most common activities.

Motorized users deliver a big impact, too. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition last year released an economic impact report showing a rapidly growing number of motorized users — 8.6 percent of Colorado households and 30,000 non-residents — spent $1.6 billion on motorized recreational trips in Colorado in the 2014-15 season. Those users spent $724 million on their motorized toys as well, stirring a $2.3 billion economic impact in Colorado, according to the report prepared by Pinyon Environmental in Lakewood.

And motorized users also are weighing in on the BLM’s resource management plan around the Arkansas Valley. In May, the Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance, which represents 170,000 registered off-highway vehicle users, sent the BLM a letter championing the economic impact of motorized users on BLM lands managed by the Royal Gorge Field Office.

“The BLM can set the example in the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan for the coexisting of users, promoting tolerance and diversity of users on true multiple-use trails,” read the Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance letter. “Very few will be able to enjoy BLM lands and all of the resources these lands have to offer if adequate motorized access is not provided.  Multiple-use and motorized recreation is indeed a bona fide form of recreation and not one to be minimized or eliminated on public lands.”

To read the entire report click here: Royal Gorge Quiet Rec ECONorthwest 2017

Source: denverpost

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Michel Cooper