Regional economic effects of current and proposed management alternatives for Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Open-File Report 2005-1195




The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 requires all units of the National Wildlife Refuge System to be managed under a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP). The CCP must describe the desired future conditions of a Refuge and provide long range guidance and management direction to achieve Refuge purposes. Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), located 27 miles northeast of Aberdeen, South Dakota, is in the process of developing a range of management goals, objectives, and strategies for the CCP. The CCP for Sand Lake NWR must contain an analysis of expected effects associated with current and proposed Refuge management strategies.

Special interest groups and local residents often criticize a change in Refuge management, especially if there is a perceived negative impact to the local economy. Having objective data on income and employment impacts may show that these economic fears are drastically overstated. Quite often, residents do not realize the extent of economic benefits a Refuge provides to a local community; yet at the same time overestimate the impact of negative changes. Spending associated with Refuge recreational activities such as wildlife viewing and hunting can generate considerable tourism activity for the regional economy. Refuge personnel typically spend considerable amounts of money purchasing supplies in the local lumber and hardware stores, repairing equipment and purchasing fuel at the local service stations, as well as reside and spend their salaries in the community.

The purpose of this study was to provide the economic analysis needed for the Sand Lake NWR CCP by evaluating the regional economic impacts associated with the Sand Lake NWR Draft CCP management strategies. For Refuge CCP planning, an economic impact analysis describes how current (No Action Alternative) and proposed management activities (alternatives) affect the local economy. This type of analysis provides two critical pieces of information: (1) it illustrates a refuge’s contribution to the local community; and (2) it can help in determining whether local economic effects are or are not a real concern in choosing among management alternatives.

Sand Lake NWR is currently managed to improve and maintain habitat for nesting and resting waterfowl and other migratory birds, such as diving and puddle ducks, geese, grebes, herons, egrets, gulls, and terns. There are three alternatives evaluated in the draft CCP. Alternative 1, the No Action alternative, would continue Refuge management at current levels and would not involve extensive restoration of cropland, grassland, and wetland habitat or improvements to roads, interpretive, and administrative facilities. No new funding or staff levels would occur and programs would follow the same direction, emphasis, and intensity as they do at present. Alternative 2 would maximize the biological potential of the refuge for species of grassland-nesting birds. This would be accomplished through intense management of upland habitat for nesting migratory birds, minimal management for resident species, and minimization of public use that may interfere with migratory bird production. The third alternative takes an integrated approach, with management practices that would serve to maximize the biological potential of Sand Lake for migratory birds. 

This report first provides a description of the local community and economy near the Refuge. An analysis of current and proposed management strategies that could affect the local economy is then presented. The Refuge management activities of economic concern in this analysis are Refuge personnel staffing and Refuge spending within the local community, and spending in the local community by Refuge visitors.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Regional economic effects of current and proposed management alternatives for Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Fort Collins Science Center
iii, 13 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
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