Analysis, Environmental

New Analysis Shows Federally Preserved Coastal Areas Are an Economic as Well as Environmental Boon

Everglades National Park

Visitors to Everglades National Park, Florida, camp on the beach at Middle Cape Sable. Source: Flickr/Nate Bolt

Washington, D.C. — (ENEWSPF)–August 25, 2016.  A new report released today by the Center for American Progress shows that the National Park System’s coastal units, which make up less than a quarter of federally preserved spaces, are among the most economically and environmentally important conservation projects in the country. The report calls for the acceleration of coastal and ocean conservation as the National Park Service enters its second century of preserving extraordinary ecological and cultural resources across U.S. terrestrial and maritime territory.

Despite comprising just 22 percent of national park units, the report found that coastal parks drive more than 29 percent of total visits to the National Park System, and those visits in turn generate more than 29 percent of the total recreational spending within the communities surrounding the nation’s national parks. Of the $646 billion the nation spent on outdoor recreation in 2012, nearly $512 billion of it took place in coastal and Great Lakes states.

The report also highlights how coastal national parks, wildlife refuges, and marine sanctuaries often serve as the most readily available opportunities for outdoor recreation for the more than 40 percent of Americans that live in coastal cities and counties and therefore represent a critical asset for ensuring equitable access to America’s great outdoors.

“Coastal parks are punching well above their weight when it comes to economic output,” said Shiva Polefka, Policy Analyst for CAP’s Ocean Policy program. “And these special places are also playing a critical role in the core mission of America’s federal conservation programs, which is to make our country’s extraordinary natural and cultural treasures accessible to all Americans.”

The report recommends that as the National Park Service begins its second century, the president and the U.S. Congress should invest more in the maintenance and expansion of coastal and Great Lakes parks, as well as in new park, wildlife refuge, and marine sanctuary designations. It also suggests key opportunities for policy makers to better understand and track the economic impacts of coastal conservation. The report concludes that accelerated coastal preservation will both expand social, environmental, and economic benefits for coastal communities today and ensure that these benefits can be fully enjoyed by America’s future generations.

Read the report: “The Dividends of Coastal Conservation in the United States.”