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. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan must describe the desired future conditions of a refuge and provide long-range guidance and management direction to achieve refuge purposes. The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge (refuge) is in the process of developing a range of management goals, objectives, and strategies for the Comprehensive Conservation Plan. The Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the refuge must contain an analysis of expected effects associated with current and proposed refuge management strategies.
The purpose of this study was to assess the regional economic implications associated with draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan 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 economic impacts may show that these fears are overstated. Quite often, the extent of economic benefits a refuge provides to a local community is not fully recognized, yet at the same time the effects of negative changes is overstated. Spending associated with refuge recreational activities, such as wildlife viewing and hunting, can generate considerable tourist activity for surrounding communities. Additionally, refuge personnel typically spend considerable amounts of money purchasing supplies in local stores, repairing equipment and purchasing fuel at the local service stations, and reside and spend their salaries in the local community.
For refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan planning, a regional economic assessment provides a means of estimating how current management (no action alternative) and proposed management activities (alternatives) could 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.
It is important to note that the economic value of a refuge encompasses more than just the impacts of the regional economy. Refuges also provide substantial nonmarket values (values for items not exchanged in established markets), such as maintaining endangered species, preserving wetlands, educating future generations, and adding stability to the ecosystem. However, quantifying these types of nonmarket values was beyond the scope of this study because of time and budget constraints.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Regional economic analysis of current and proposed management alternatives for Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge