Outdoor adventure seekers on public lands generate economic benefits

Bureau of Land Management
3 min readFeb 23, 2023

By Derrick Henry, Public Affairs Specialist

Visitors to BLM-managed public lands enjoy countless types of outdoor adventure — participating in activities as widely varied as camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, whitewater rafting, hang-gliding, off-highway vehicle driving, mountain biking, birding and wildlife viewing, photography, climbing, all types of winter sports, and visiting natural and cultural heritage sites. The BLM’s latest figures show that these activities remain a strong draw, with broad benefits for local communities.

In FY 2021, BLM-managed lands received more than 80 million recreation-related visits. That’s an increase of about 10 percent over the previous year. Highlights in three BLM states, appearing in our latest Sound Investment brochure, show that recreation is a beneficial use of public lands.

The northern lights swirl over Wolf Run Cabin in BLM’s White Mountains National Recreation Area in Alaska. BLM photo by Craig McCaa.

In Alaska, where the BLM manages 70 million acres of public land, a unique recreational opportunity is just an hour’s drive from Fairbanks. The one-million-acre White Mountains National Recreation Area, which in FY 2021 recorded approximately 180,000 visitors, offers stunning scenery, peaceful solitude and outstanding opportunities for year-round recreation including hiking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skiing, wildlife and scenic viewing. The White Mountains features 12 log cabins that promise an experience found no other place on the planet.

It’s not surprising that there’s increased demand for access to these places, a demand that the BLM has been meeting. In Idaho, for example, the BLM in FY 2021 acquired approximately 650 acres of land to preserve open space, enhance outdoor recreation opportunities, and conserve wildlife habitat. This included the 560-acre Healy Toll Road parcel in the Boise foothills. It also included 88.5 acres near Cougar Bay in northern Idaho. These and other acquisitions support the BLM’s strategic goal by providing opportunities for environmentally responsible recreation and preservation of our natural and cultural heritage.

There’s another benefit that comes with people using public lands for recreation. It is that visitors spend money in communities that are local to various destinations. In FY 2021, the BLM hosted nearly 10 million recreational visitors across Oregon and Washington, and that contributed more than half-a-billion dollars to local economies.

Overall, recreational activities on BLM public lands contributed about $11.4 billion to the national economy. Meanwhile, the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 1.9 percent, or $454 billion, of current-dollar gross domestic product for the nation in 2021, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The next time you visit BLM-managed lands for your favorite recreation activity, you’ll know that your presence matters to local communities and others who love the great outdoors.

BLM employees take government policy and turn it into real work on the ground. This article is based on information from the BLM’s 2022 Sound Investment brochure. The brochure, which uses fiscal year 2021 data, highlights the various activities that take place on public lands, and their contributions to the national economy. In fiscal year 2021, authorized use and management of BLM-administered lands supported $201 billion in economic output and nearly 783,000 jobs across the country.

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Bureau of Land Management

The BLM manages one in every 10 acres of land in the United States, and approximately 30 percent of the Nation’s minerals.