Regarding the recent BWCA Wilderness Economic Contribution Analysis report and Timberjay editorial, I would like to clarify a couple points.
I wholeheartedly agree that there is real value to neighboring communities when people visit the region because of the wilderness, and then choose to stay and create lives and businesses of their own. That said, this was not the focus of the recent study. Our goal was to better understand and begin to quantify the economic role of the wilderness in neighboring communities. As part of that, the study does acknowledge the economic impact of people that move to the region, however one study cannot cover every economic aspect. We wanted to start with a narrow scope, as it is beautifully measurable and this piece hadn’t been done.
We see the ecological health of the Boundary Waters and the economic health of its nearby communities intertwined. Contributions of BWCAW summer permit holders are just one economic measure – but a very important one. Without this $77 million and 1,000 jobs a year, it would be much harder to support economically stable communities near the wilderness.
Economic knowledge is essential to good planning and decision-making not only for community leaders but for county, state and U.S. Forest Service land managers. And at a time when our nation’s wilderness areas and public lands are at risk of losing protections, it’s incredibly important to better understand the ways we all benefit from them.
We hope this study helps everyone who values clean water, healthy forests and sustainable communities surrounding our common public lands.
Friends of the Boundary