- Protected public lands such as national parks can play an important economic role for local communities. This visualization 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 visualization that are included below to help users better understand their local economy and the role of protected public lands.
Visits, Spending, Jobs, and Labor Income from 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 a visualization 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. Users also can explore long-term visitation trends below.
This visualization uses data from the NPS/USGS Visitor Spending Effects report series. View the National Park Service’s data tool and the 2018 visitor spending effects report (PDF). We suggest you use this report as the citation for data presented on this page.
Explore Long-Term Visitation Trends
How to cite this research: This visualization uses National Park Service visitation data. We suggest you use the following citation for the data visualization above: Thomas CC, L Koontz, and E Cornachione. (2019). 2018 National Park Visitor Spending Effects: Economic Contributions to Local Communities, States, and the Nation. (Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/EQD/NRR—2019/1922). Fort Collins, CO: National Park Service. As reported by Headwaters Economics.
Broader Economic Impact of National Parks
Importantly, 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.
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 rural 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.
- People and Public Lands: this collection of essays written by some of the most prominent and respected scholars of public lands addresses questions related to the economic impact of America’s public lands.
- Protected Lands and Income: study and visualization 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.
- The Value of Public Lands: post contains numerous reports, case studies, bibliographies, tools, and research concerning the value of western protected public lands.