Red Desert

Stephanie Randall rides through the Red Desert recently with Boar’s Tusk in the background. The desert in the spring is filled with shades of green and spots of wildflowers.

Christine Peterson, Star-Tribune

Outdoor enthusiasts generated more than $27 million in spending on “quiet recreation” on Bureau of Land Management land in 2015 in southwest Wyoming, according to a new report done by ECONorthwest and commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The survey included any kind of recreation that “does not involve significant motorized activity” such as snowmobiling, motorcycling or off-road vehicle use. It found that the mass of land covering most of Sweetwater County and parts of neighboring counties experienced about 483,000 quiet recreation visits in 2015, about 57 percent of all recreational visits to the area.

“These findings mirror what we have seen in other BLM areas we’ve studied,” said Kristin Lee, an ECONorthwest researcher who led the project. “The study shows that quiet recreation is an economic force. These public lands provide recreational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people, which directly translates to millions of dollars for the state’s economy.”

The Bureau of Land Management is currently working on its Rock Springs Management Plan revision, which will help direct development on the lands for the next 20 years. The area includes large portions of Wyoming’s Red Desert, a massive swatch of unfenced land home to elk and pronghorn, oil and gas development, a coal-fired power plant and the second-largest living sand dunes in the world.

The recent report found that the $27.2 million spent within 50 miles of the recreation sites resulted in $12.4 million in employees’ salaries, wages and benefits.

Almost 300 jobs were also supported as a result of quiet recreation.

“Quiet recreation on public lands is a growing and integral economic component of Wyoming’s tourism industry, our second leading industry in terms of economic impact,” said Dave Hanks, CEO of the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce in a news release. “Quiet sports can provide a more diverse revenue stream to the local economy when services and products are developed to meet this growing demand.”

Almost half of the visitors went camping, 18 percent spent their time hunting, 11 percent reported using off-road vehicles and 11 percent reported driving as their main activity.

Follow managing editor Christine Peterson on Twitter @PetersonOutside

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Christine Peterson is a managing editor of the Star-Tribune and reports on environmental issues and outdoor recreation.

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