Washington, DC -- Saving endangered species from extinction pays, not only in terms of healthy, intact ecosystems, but also in dollars – dollars that may reach into several millions, according to a new report released today by Defenders of Wildlife. The report, "Conservation Pays: How Protecting Endangered and Threatened Species Makes Good Business Sense" details how 11 different species are creating economic benefits for business owners and towns throughout the country.
"Our report shows that protecting wildlife can bring valuable economic benefits to local communities," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. "We found that wildlife enthusiasts are willing to spend big money, and that can translate into millions of dollars for local economies. It's clear that Americans across the country are traveling to view wildlife and spending their money to do it."
The report compiles economic data from local events featuring endangered or threatened species and the businesses that benefit on these events. The following are examples of what communities, tourism boards and small business owners are saying about the economic benefits they have seen through endangered species-related events:
Southeastern Florida's Staghorn and Elkhorn Corals – Snorkelers, swimmers and scuba divers attracted to the coral in the waters off southeastern Florida generate $2.7 billion in retail sales for the region. "It's not just the reefs, but the habitat created by the reefs and the fish that live there," said Gary Mace, owner of Conch Republic Divers in Tavernier, Fla.
Washington State's Pacific Salmon – The Issaquah Salmon Days Festival in Washington state attracts as many as 200,000 people and brings in around $7.5 million to the community each year, including the $1.5 million from the festival alone. Robin Kelly, the Chamber of Commerce's director for festivals, said, "Our community considers the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival to be an important asset."
Clinton, Iowa's Bald Eagles – Each year Clinton, Iowa holds an eagle watching day. Last year, this event generated $57,560 for the community. Joe Taylor, president of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau in Iowa, said, "The eagles are a source of community pride, and many community groups and businesses use the eagle in their marketing and advertising."
Wisconsin's Whooping Cranes – The whooping crane festival in Necedah, Wisconsin continues to grow each year, bringing in over $42,000 per year to this small rural economy. "The festival definitely helped our economy and put Necedah on the map, both nationally and internationally," said Dave Arnold, the festival's general chairman.
Delaware Bay Shorebirds – Birders seeking to view rare, endangered species spend $5.6 million to $9.3 million in the Delaware Bay area each year. A study conducted in Massachusetts at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge found that its birding visitors contribute between $609,000 and $1.5 million to the area's economy each year. "Local businesses are aware of the economic contribution the birders make," said Pat Sutton with the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory.
Louisiana Black Bears – The Bayou Teche Bear Festival in St. Mary Parish, La., held every April, attracts 5,000 to 7,000 people. In 2004 alone, wildlife watching activities in the state generated $370 million. "We use the festival as a building block to get people to appreciate the Louisiana black bear, and as a tourism promotion too," says Laura Goulas, the festival manager.
California's Southern Sea Otters – To Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, an expanding sea otter population could mean that tourism related to the species would provide an additional 60 to 320 jobs, and an additional annual income of $1.5 to $8.2 million, according to a recent study. "They [sea otters] are huge as a visible symbol of the California coast and play a major role in people deciding to come here to visit," said Ken Peterson of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Yellowstone Gray Wolves – Wolves in Yellowstone National Park are a huge tourist draw. More than 151,000 people visit the park each year to see the wolves, generating an annual direct expenditure of $35 million which goes to local businesses in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. In Ely, Minn., the International Wolf Center's retail store generates roughly $120,000 per year in sales. In addition, the center brings in as much as $3 million per year to Ely and provides nearly 70 tourism-related jobs. Susi Sinay, co-owner of Safari Company in Bozeman, Mont., said, "Wolves fit into our business really well. The wolf is a very special animal that people want to see."
Florida's Manatees – While manatees' habitat ranges from Virginia to Texas, they spend their winters in Florida, creating an economic boom for business in that state. At Florida's Blue Spring State Park, where over 200 manatees congregate, hundreds of thousands of visitors spend about $10 million in the area annually. At Homosassa Spring Wildlife State Park, over 170,000 visitors spend $13.6 million a year. Businesses in Crystal Springs, Florida cater specifically to manatee watchers. "The manatees are the reason people come to visit Crystal River," said Bill Oestreich, a business owner. "Manatees contribute a lot to the economy."
Hawaii's Humpback Whales – Hawaiian businesses benefit from the humpback whales' presence in the waters off their coasts at a tune of $19 to $27 million thanks to some 448,000 whale-watchers. Annual whale watching boat ticket sales alone are $11.2 million. "A lot of people here capitalize on the humpback whales and the revenue they generate," said Dan McSweeney, owner of Kona-based Dan McSweeney's Whale Watching Adventures. "It's a win-win situation."
"Endangered species are proving to be valuable economic assets for tourism boards, small business owners, entrepreneurs and local economies," continued Schlickeisen. "Americans across the country value the intrinsic value wildlife brings to an area and, as our report shows, are willing to spend money to support it."
The report can be found at www.defenders.org/publications/conservation-pays-2007.pdf.
Defenders of Wildlife is recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 500,000 members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.