Conservation of Public Lands Helps Small Businesses Thrive

Public Lands

Outdoor recreation in Oregon’s Steamboat Creek Watershed and on other public lands and waters accounts for significant consumer spending and helps support the gateway communities around these national treasures.

Paul Colangelo/International League of Conservation Photographers

A key element of the growing outdoor recreation economy—which accounts for $887 billion in annual consumer spending and supports 7.6 million jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association—are small businesses, especially those that operate in the gateway communities around public lands. Sure, online shopping is convenient, but it’s to a local business that most visitors turn when they need a replacement tent or last-minute supplies before heading out to camp, fish, hunt, or find solace in the outdoors.

National Small Business Week, which runs from April 29 to May 5, is a time to celebrate America’s entrepreneurs and recognize their importance to towns, counties, and local economies.

That’s why The Pew Charitable Trusts is highlighting the intersection of these businesses and public lands. Who better to do that than some of the motel and restaurant owners, outfitters, gallery proprietors, and mom-and-pop merchants whose survival depends on national parks, national forest, wilderness, Bureau of Land Management landscapes, and national monuments.

Public Lands

"Since the protection of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, our local tourism industry in Escalante has grown and is thriving. Thanks to our national monuments, people want to live here, and new home construction is at an all-time high."

—Suzanne Catlett, board president of the Escalante & Boulder Chamber of Commerce, Utah

The Pew Charitable Trusts

Public Lands

"People flock to Northern California for our pristine rivers, spectacular views, and endless recreational opportunities. Over a million visits a year for quiet recreation on Northern California’s BLM lands shows just how important these places are for camping, hunting, fishing, biking, and boating. In order to foster this key part of our local economy, we need to care for these places and see the connection that stewardship of these places has on our local businesses."

—Aaron Ostrom, co-owner, Pacific Outfitters, Eureka

Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management

Public Lands

"We can attribute our success to Idahoans’ love of the outdoors and Idaho’s vast wilderness that has endured unchanged for thousands of years. The Boulder-White Cloud Mountains are Idaho at its best. They not only provide the clear, free-flowing water for many of our wild rivers, they also help drive the outdoor recreation industry, which provides Idaho with billions of dollars every year."

—Jo Cassin and Stan Kolby, owners, Idaho River Sports, Boise

The Pew Charitable Trusts

Public Lands

"The economic impact of recreation in our state is arguably one of the most important economic drivers. Colorado represents the best in diversity in recreation. And each opportunity to protect those areas, maintain them, and present a good outdoor product to residents and visitors will allow communities to continue to thrive. Rural communities are most at risk when the economic benefit of recreation in our state is ignored."

—David Leinweber, owner, Angler’s Covey Inc., and board member, Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, Colorado Springs

Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management

Public Lands

"We started seeing evidence of the monument’s influence in May 2016. People, most of whom were already visiting Acadia National Park, came and stayed with us, citing talk of a new national monument in the Katahdin region as the catalyst for their visit. The monument breathed new life into our fall [business] and drove a 33 percent year-over-year increase in revenue at the River Drivers Restaurant as day and overnight visitation to the region grew."

—Matthew Polstein, owner, New England Outdoor Center and Twin Pines camps, Millinocket, Maine

Cathy Johnson

Small businesses and protected public lands fit hand in glove, drawing visitors who spend money at local retailers. That’s good for the ongoing sustainability of local communities. And protected public lands create a more enjoyable outdoor experience for hunters, anglers, hikers, birders, and other visitors, and if properly managed will continue to do so for generations to come. That’s something to remember during Small Business Week—and throughout the year.

John Gilroy directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. public lands program.

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Susan Whitmore

Director, Communications