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The recreation factor.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Most of us don't think much about it when we're out hiking, climbing, biking, paddling - and often just gazing - in our national forests, but these outings add up to big business.

A new report by the Outdoor Industry Foundation says recreation contributes heavily to the U.S. economy and provides the revenue lifeblood for many rural communities.

In the Pacific West region (Oregon, California, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska), the report estimates that outdoor recreation generates $81.7 billion in economic activity a year, accounting for more than 726,247 jobs and $9.4 billion in taxes. At the national level, outdoor recreation generates $730 billion, supports roughly 6.5 million jobs, raises $88 billion in federal and state taxes and accounts for nearly $290 billion annually in retail sales and services.

Trade industry reports should usually be taken with several grains of salt, and the report doesn't take into account other economic benefits of outdoor recreation, such as the value of protecting watersheds that provide clean drinking water or the effects on real estate values that result from proximity to public lands that offer recreational opportunities.

But the findings underscore the reality that recreation is a major player in the nation's economy - and that it plays an important and growing role in regions such as the Northwest, where traditional industry mainstays such as timber and fisheries have been in alternating states of stagnancy and decline.

That merits reflection at a time when the Bush administration is exhibiting its disregard for both recreation and conservation by dismantling the landmark 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

Even though more than half of all national forests were already open to logging, drilling, mining and road building, the administration last year overturned the Clinton-era roadless-rule that protected the remaining 58.5 million acres of roadless lands.

In its place, the administration created a state-by-state process that leaves the national forests that belong to all Americans to the discretion of individual governors and, ultimately, the White House. In Oregon and elsewhere across the country, the administration has already broken its pledge to protect roadless areas until governors complete their reviews, and the Forest Service has given the green light to logging, mining, road construction and other projects that will diminish their recreational values.

Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, are rightly resisting the administration's sell-out to timber, oil and gas interests that have long regarded national forests as their piggy banks.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and five other governors have filed a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's repeal of the roadless rule. Meanwhile, governors from several states already have submitted petitions seeking reinstatement of all previous roadless protections in their states. Earlier this year, more than 250,000 Americans signed a petition urging the president to reinstate the roadless rule.

The Bush administration should give up its misguided effort to roll back protections for roadless forests - and recognize that their long-term recreational values often match or exceed those of the logs, oil, gas, coal and ore that can be removed from them.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Study says it contributes $730 billion to economy
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 28, 2006
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