Visitor Spending at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Boosts Local Economy


A new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service examined the economic impact of 162 national wildlife refuges to their local economies, including Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Blackwater NWR had an economic impact of $7.8 million, including $667,000 in total tax revenue, 63 jobs, and $2.3 million in employment income to Dorchester and Wicomico counties.  Visitor expenditures for 2017 were $5.8 million, with non-residents accounting for 95% of the total.

Nationwide, 53.6 million people visited national wildlife refuges in 2017, with an economic impact of $3.2 billion on local communities and supporting more than 41,000 jobs.  The figures come from a new economic report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service titled Banking on Nature 2017: The Economic Contributions of National Wildlife Refuge Recreational Visitation to Local CommunitiesThe report is the sixth in a series of studies since 1997 that measure the economic contributions of national wildlife refuge recreational visits to local economies.

“Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a local and national treasure for visitors from next door to across the country.  Our 223,000 annual visitors enjoy activities such as wildlife watching year round, deer hunting September through January, and spectacular waterfowl photography in the winter,” said Marcia Pradines, the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader. “But the impacts go beyond the easy to measure economic outputs.  For instance, all of the county’s fourth and sixth graders participate in environmental education activities, and the habitats provide valuable ecological services such as flood buffers, and nurseries for fish.”

National wildlife refuges generate many individual and societal benefits, including fish and wildlife conservation, open space, science and education, water quality improvement and flood resilience. The thriving fish and wildlife populations of the Refuge System also attract millions of recreational users. Some visitors take part in heritage sports, such as hunting and fishing, where those activities are compatible with refuge management goals and other recreational activities. Others enjoy hiking, paddling, wildlife viewing or nature photography.

Wildlife-related recreation fuels the economy throughout the nation. The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years by the Service, informs the Banking on Nature report. The most recent survey found that more than 103 million Americans, or 40 percent of the United States population age 16 and older, pursued wildlife-related outdoor recreation in 2016 and spent nearly $156.9 billion.

The Banking on Nature study also found:

– National wildlife refuges are seen widely as travel-worthy destinations: 83 percent of refuge spending was done by visitors from outside the local area — an increase of 9 percent from the 2011 study. At Blackwater NWR, 95% is from non-residents.

– More than 41,000 jobs (up 18 percent from 2011) and $1.1 billion in employment income (up 22 percent) were generated.

– The combined economic contribution to communities nationwide is more than six times the $483.9 million appropriated by Congress to the Refuge System in FY 2017.

The Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts in all 50 states and five U.S. territories. Blackwater NWR is within a two hour’s drive of both Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitats for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and boating to nature watching, photography and environmental education.

For more details and a full listing of each refuge’s economic impact, read the Banking on Nature report and explore the visual data online.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, protects over 29,000 acres of rich tidal marsh, mixed hardwood and pine forest, managed freshwater wetlands and cropland for a diversity of wildlife.  To learn more, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook @BlackwaterNWR.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

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