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Steamboat Geyser

A crowd gathers to watch Steamboat Geyser on Sept. 17 in Yellowstone National Park. The park had a cumulative economic benefit to its local economy of nearly $650 million in 2018.

A new National Park Service report shows that Yellowstone National Park and Devils Tower National Monument brought a cumulative $647.1 million and $38.2 million, respectively, to their local economies last year.

Yellowstone’s 4.1 million visitors in 2018 spent $512.6 million in communities near the park and supported 7,089 jobs in the area. Devils Tower’s 468,215 visitors spent $30 million in communities near the park and supported 414 jobs in the area.

“These numbers once again show the enormous positive impacts our national parks have on our local economies,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said in an announcement. “Our national parks are one of the very best tax payer investments in this country. For many reasons, well beyond economics, it’s essential that we invest aggressively to protect these incredible places in the future.”

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Grizzly cubs near Fishing Bridge
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Grizzly bears take turns eating a bison carcass
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Grizzly bear walks along the edge of Blacktail Ponds
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Grizzly sow nursing cubs near Fishing Bridge
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Grizzly bear tracks on snow near Pelican Creek

Economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service conducted the peer-reviewed analysis.

“The nation’s first national monument welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” Devils Tower Superintendent Amnesty Kochanowski said in an announcement. “We are delighted to share the stories of Devils Tower and the experiences it provides. The Tower also introduces many visitors to Northeast Wyoming and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in the economy of the Black Hills region as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain our local communities.”

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Altogether, the report shows $20.2 billion of direct spending by more than 318 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. Per the study, this spending supported 329,000 jobs nationally — 268,000 of which are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $40.1 billion.

Lodging expenses accounted for $6.8 billion nationally in 2018, the largest share of visitor spending, and food expenses were the second-largest spending area: Visitors spent $4 billion in restaurants and bars and another $1.4 billion at grocery and convenience stores.

Visitor spending on lodging supported more than 58,000 jobs nationally and more than 61,000 jobs in restaurants in 2018. Spending in the recreation industries supported more than 28,000 jobs, and spending in retail supported more than 20,000 jobs.

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