National park visitors contribute millions to Montana economy

This bison getting quite the view at home in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. Roughly 9,500 jobs were supported by the spending, an increase of roughly 3,000 since 2012, according to the report. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the figures while at San Francisco's Presidio at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We are commemorating it by looking at the world around us- including parks.

"It's exciting to see the steady increase in both visitation to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, and the consistent economic benefit park visitors provide to our Hawai'i Island community in the way of jobs, and their spending", said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.

"In my own hometown of Whitefish, Montana, I saw how the popularity of Glacier National Park led to growth of the local outdoor rec and eco-tourism industry".

"This report is a testament to the tangible economic benefits our parks bring to communities across the nation". "We noticed the increase in visitation from the start of 2016, which marked the 100th anniversary of both the National Park Service and Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Visitation numbers continue to rise because people want to experience these majestic public lands", Zinke said.

Of the $1.1 billion spent by visitors, 35 percent went to hotels, 20 percent went to restaurants and another 11 percent was spent on gas.

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U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law making Yellowstone the first national park in 1872. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers.

The report was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.

"National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning more than $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it's a big factor in our local economy as well".

In a statement accompanying the release of the 2016 economic report, Zinke said it is time for the park service to focus on beefing up infrastructure and accessibility.

Each year, the interior department studies how NPS visitors spent money in local communities during their trips and compile that data into the annual economic contribution report.

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