Tourism and recreation are economically vital in the West. In fact, a 2014 study examining the economic impact of visitors to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sagebrush landscapes found that in 2013, visitors spent in excess of $1 billion in nearby communities.
Eleven states with sagebrush landscapes - California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming - provided opportunities for nearly 68 million visitors to hike, hunt, fish and witness some of the most beautiful rural places in the world. Those visitors in turn purchased fuel, food, lodging, guiding, licenses, equipment and much more.
Hunting, fishing, birding, hiking, and kayaking depend on strong conservation efforts on public and private land to preserve and protect the healthy wildlife and ecosystems visitors to sagebrush country come to see. But declining populations of species such as the sage grouse might require action under the Endangered Species Act(ESA).
An ESA listing, however, could be disruptive to ranchers, farmers and recreation as well as tourists who visit these landscapes. Voluntary conservation measures that raise sage grouse populations and benefit the local economy at the same time make more sense. If it makes sense to you too, talk to your USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service about programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or other programs that help with conservation and habitat restoration. And talk to your Governor and state legislators about supporting voluntary habitat stewardship.
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