As we continue our blog series, Broad Base of Support, this week, we highlight how Texas communities and local businesses benefit through a booming nature tourism industry, which would be further supported and sustained through passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, H.R.4647!
Family canoeing at Caddo Lake Photo courtesty: TPWD
Nature tourism on the rise
More than half of all Texans engage in some sort of outdoor activity each year. These activities frequently involve overnight travel, retail sales of equipment and clothing, and purchasing food, fuel, and supplies. Nature-based tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry. A previous study from the City of Corpus Christi illustrates the importance of nature tourism to many communities. It now accounts for 47 percent of all visitor-trips, and spending by nature-oriented visitor represents more than 50 percent of overall visitor spending. The total economic impact of nature tourism in the Corpus Christi area alone is estimated at $987 million in business revenues, $549 million in value-added activity, and 12,914 jobs.
Birders flock to Texas
Everything is bigger in Texas - and birding is no exception! An incredible 648 species can be found in the Lone Star State. Texas is home to some very popular, and globally important bird areas. Birders "flock" to ecoregions throughout Texas to catch a glimpse of our many feathered friends. They come to see neo-tropical migrants as they cruise along flyways to their winter and summer destinations, and come to see many of our charismatic, resident bird species.
Painted bunting Photo courtesy: TPWD
Studies estimate that over a million Texans and out-of-state visitors participate in wildlife watching or photography each year. Locally endemic (meaning they are only found in Texas) or rare species of bird, like our states’ Species of Greatest Conservation Need, can also be big tourist draw. For example, the yellow-green vireo, a bird local to the Rio Grande Valley, is estimated to have generated more than $100,000 in local spending in a single year. Outside of larger cities like Corpus Christi, tourists take birding boat tours that operate out of outlying coastal communities. They visit seaside towns to have the opportunity to see species like the endangered Whooping cranes, forage in lush marshes and estuaries. When tourists visit these communities, they pay park entrance fees, stay in hotels, dine at restaurants, purchase groceries and recreational supplies, fill up their gas tanks, and shop for local art and crafts.
Whooping crane Photo courtesy: Ryan Haggerty USFWS, Wikicommons
Supporting tourism through the Recovering Americas Wildlife Act
It’s clear that nature-based tourism represents a growing and vitally important part of our economy. Supporting healthy wildlife populations ensures nature based tourism opportunities are sustainable into the future. Not only do healthy fish and wildlife populations support tourism in local communities through direct impacts mentioned here, they are also key components of interconnected, resilient ecosystems that support our health and well-being. These systems provide food, fiber, clean water, clean air and many other sources of outdoor recreation to Texans, like hunting and fishing.
Stabilizing these species now will provide a wide range of conservation benefits for the future. Passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will mean eligibility for more than $63 million per year in federal funds to implement the Texas Conservation Action Plan, which is designed to keep at-risk Texas fish and wildlife populations off the threatened and endangered species list through active conservation efforts. An active approach to species protection avoids the high cost of endangered species recovery, increases recreational opportunities, provides ecological benefits, and will boost tourism throughout the state. Coupled with a 25% non-federal match, this funding translates into new jobs, additional recreational opportunities, increased habitat restoration and conservation, and more tourist dollars, for the benefit of Texas fish and wildlife, the business community, and future Texans!
Visit our toolkit page to find out how you can get involved!