Economic Impact of National Parks

This interactive and background materials show visits, spending, and the number of jobs created in gateway communities for every National Park Service unit.

  • Protected public lands such as national parks can play an important economic role for local communities. This interactive shows jobs and labor income created by visitor spending in gateway communities for every National Park Service unit.
  • The economic benefits of national parks extend beyond tourism. The greatest value of natural amenities and recreation opportunities often lies in the ability of protected lands to attract and retain people, entrepreneurs, businesses, and retirees.
  • Headwaters Economics has developed a number of tools in addition to the national parks interactive that are included below to help users better understand their local economy and the role of protected public lands.

Visitors at Old Faithful

Economic Impact of National Parks

Visitation and spending directly related to nearby public lands such as national parks annually contribute billions to regional economies while creating hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs.

Headwaters Economics has created an interactive that lists the visits, spending, jobs, and labor income created in gateway communities for each of the National Park Service units during the past several years.

At the same time, the economic benefits of national parks extend beyond tourism. In today’s economy, the greatest value of natural amenities and recreation opportunities often lies in the ability of protected lands to attract and retain people, entrepreneurs, their businesses, and the growing number of retirees who locate for quality of life reasons.

Interactive: Visits, Spending, Jobs, and Labor Income from National Parks

This interactive shows visits, non-local spending, and the number of private sector jobs and labor income created in gateway communities for each of the National Park Service units.  Visitation trend data are available upon request.

Interactive page on economic impact of National Parks

The interactive visualization uses data from the NPS/USGS Visitor Spending Effects report series. View the National Park Service’s data tool and the 2015 visitor spending effects report (PDF). We suggest you use this report as the citation for data presented on this page.

Broader Economic Impact of National Parks

National Park Service units positively impact gateway communities in a variety of ways such as visitor spending, quality of life, and attracting workers and businesses.

Headwaters Economics has developed a number of tools, many of them described below, to help users better understand their local economy and the role of protected public lands.

  • Socioeconomic Profiles: the Economic Profile System is a free, easy-to-use software that provides detailed reports at the community, county, or state level.
  • National Monuments: case studies and reports on the economic performance of communities adjacent to western national monuments.
  • Federal Lands in the West: study showing that ural counties in the West with more federal lands or protected federal lands performed better on average than their peers with less federal lands or protected federal lands in four key economic measures.
  • Protected Lands and Income: study and interactive showing the amount of per capita income explained by protected federal lands for each county in the non-metropolitan western U.S.
  • Economists on Public Lands: more than 100 economists urged President Obama to “create jobs and support businesses by investing in our public lands infrastructure and establishing new protected areas such as parks, wilderness, and monuments.”
  • West Is Best: this report finds that the West’s popular national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands offer its growing high-tech and services industries a competitive advantage.
  • Library on the Value of Public Lands: contains numerous reports, case studies, bibliographies, tools, and research concerning the value of western protected public lands.