Report: Activities on Interior lands add $14.4 billion to state economy

Ken Salazar

Energy development, outdoor recreation, tourism and other activities on lands administered by the Department of the Interior contributed more than $14.4 billion to the Colorado economy during the 2011 fiscal year, according to new report from the federal agency.

Nationwide, economic benefits totalled $385 billion.

“The Interior Department has a uniquely diverse mission that benefits the American people by promoting tourism, outdoor recreation, energy development and other economic activities that fuel local economies in Colorado,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “This report underscores that there are real, lasting impacts on communities and small businesses across the country where Interior is helping to strengthen economies and support families.”

Prepared by the Department of the Interior Office of Policy Analysis, the report underscores the findings of other studies on the economic effects of Interior Department lands and programs. One earlier study found that recreation in national parks, refuges and other public lands alone led to nearly $47 billion in economic contribution and 388,000 jobs in 2010. Another report recently released by the Outdoor Industry Association showed that 140 million Americans spent a total of $646 billion on hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor recreation on public and private lands, including the 500 million acres of public lands managed by Interior agencies.

According to the latest Department of the Interior report, energy and mineral development on lands administered by the agency in Colorado supported 52,678 jobs. The more than 16 million visitors to national parks, national wildlife refuges and other Interior lands supported 13,365 jobs.

Many jobs associated with recreational activities on Interior lands are located in rural communities, including 10,000 such jobs in Colorado, the report stated.

Trade group: Report obscures oil, natural gas contributions

A new report detailing the economic effects of activities on federal lands administered by the Department of the Interior “obscures” the contributions of oil and natural gas development, according to a Denver-based trade association.

“By lumping all energy sources together in the executive summary and throughout the document, the true contribution of the oil and natural gas industry is not readily apparent,” said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and policy affairs for the Western Energy Alliance.

Sgamma said an analysis of the numbers shows that oil and natural gas exploration and production on  Interior lands generated $238.5 billion in economic effects and accounted for 1.3 million jobs during the 2011 fiscal year. Those numbers in turn constitute 62 percent of the total economic benefits and 56 percent of the jobs detailed in the report.

“This is not value generated by the government. It’s the result of private-sector investment, technical innovation and productive activity on public lands,” Sgamma said.

The development of other minerals on interior lands accounted for $21.2 billion in economic benefits and nearly 123,000 jobs, while coal mining accounted for another $11.7 billion in benefits and almost 50,000 jobs, she said.