[dropcap]I[/dropcap] admit it–I’m a big outdoor enthusiast. The happiest memories I have were spent enjoying nature and just feeling at peace surrounded by its beauty. Here in Alabama, we are blessed with an abundance of outdoor activities year round. Many of us in this area hunt, fish, bird watch or simply enjoy lounging at the beach. I think we all share a love for our outdoor hobbies, whatever they may be. But, we may not realize the tremendous economic impact these nature-based activities have on our local economy.
A recent report shed some light on this subject. The report, conducted by Datu, studied the economic impact of wildlife tourism in the five Gulf States. According to the report, wildlife tourism draws 20 million participants annually to the Gulf Coast. The tourism industry provides 2.6 million jobs in the region; nearly five times that of the region’s other three largest resource-based industries, which are commercial fisheries, oil and gas, and shipping. The report dives into state-bystate statistics that offer a good perspective on how wildlife tourism really is the bread and butter of the Gulf economy. In Alabama alone, wildlife tourism (including hunting, recreational fishing and wildlife watching) provides over 26,000 jobs and generates over $2 billion in revenue. Mobile and Baldwin counties host nearly 1,400 tourism-related businesses. State and local governments generate almost $200 million in revenue from tourism, a sum that could pay the salaries of almost 4,000 secondary school teachers. The great state of Alabama hosts over 2.3 million tourists per year, which I’m sure doesn’t surprise anyone that has been stuck in the traffic on I-10 recently.
Clearly, the Gulf of Mexico and its surrounding environment are what draw millions of people to this area each summer. I can’t help but consider what we are protected for years to come. Do we take these resources for granted, assuming they will always be here just as they are today? I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to look back and see that I have done my part to protect this special part of our country. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take action and use the fi ne money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and invest it in protecting and restoring this beautiful ecosystem. after all, the more we invest in protecting and restoring these resources, the more we can rely on them to support our economy. The DATU report can be found at: http://www.daturesearch.com/wp-content/ uploads/WildlifeTourismReport_FINAL. pdf