Sen. Jim DeMint's recent guest column on the federal government's land-acquisition plans ("White House land grab," Commentary, March 3) outlines a lot of issues, but it doesn't adequately address the significant contribution of outdoor recreation to the U.S. economy and to Mr. DeMint's home state of South Carolina. As a South Carolina employer, I think the value of a major contributor to the economy needs to be part of the conversation.
A recent report by the Outdoor Foundation shows that active outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supports 6.5 million jobs across the country and adds $88 billion in state and federal tax revenue every year. In the mid-Atlantic states, including South Carolina, recreation contributes $67.5 billion to the economy and generates $8.2 billion in gear sales, $43 billion in trip-related expenditures and $8.3 billion in taxes; and it supports approximately 800,000 jobs for Americans.
Mr. DeMint's statement that "Washington bureaucrats believe it's more important to preserve grass and rocks for birdwatchers and backpackers than keep these local economies thriving" seems to ignore that fact that these activities, as well as paddling, hiking, fishing and many other outdoor recreational activities fuel local economies, create jobs and continue to be strong economic drivers year after year.
As Mr. DeMint points out, at a time when the national unemployment rate is close to 10 percent, it is imperative that vibrant sectors of the economy are allowed to perform. While energy-resource development certainly provides opportunities for job creation and local spending, it is just one avenue for achieving economic success. The same lands that may be rich in natural resources are often popular recreation areas.
Responsible land stewardship and equitable public land management are essential to sustain the nation's vibrant outdoor recreation sector in years to come.
President and chief executive