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Study: Outdoor recreation benefits economy

When state lawmakers from around the country gathered earlier this month in Fayette County for a meeting of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, the focus was on making sure the nation's laws support hunters and anglers as much possible.

A new study will help.

According to the Southwick Associates for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, outdoor recreation — when combined with historic preservation — supports 9.4 million jobs nationally each year. That translates to more than $1 trillion in economic impact annually.

The study determined, among other things, that in 2006, outdoor sports — which by definition includes hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, camping, skiing, paddle sports and bicycling — generated $99 billion in federal and state tax revenues. They also supported $9.5 billion in annual retail sales.

That's not to be underestimated, officials said, at a time when the unemployment rate is 8.6 percent.

"As a former Secretary of the Interior, governor, senator and mayor, I have witnessed firsthand how historic preservation, conservation and outdoor recreation result in tremendous benefits to our nation's economy," Dirk Kempthorne said. "This study is a valuable tool for reaffirming and quantifying those benefits."

Former U.S. Congressman and current chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation Lindsay Thomas added: "Sportsmen put billions of dollars of their own money annually into conservation through the licenses they buy and the excise taxes that they pay on hunting and fishing equipment. This combined with the other taxes that are paid through activities associated with outdoor recreation and historic preservation total over $100 billion annually contributed to state and federal coffers."

The study is being used by a group known as America's Voice for Conservation, Recreation and Preservation, a coalition of more than 770 organizations, to lobby for conservation funding.

"This study is yet more evidence that investing in the environment is good for the fiscal health of our country," said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society and the group's co-chair.

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