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Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge brings you more than watchable wildlife, it's good for the economy


Pelicans on gravel bar. Photo by Rick Hansen/USFWS.

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know that public lands are valuable and those who visit them know that they help improve the quality of life and the health of the community. There are countless benefits to having access to recreation like birding, hiking, hunting and fishing, but did you know that public lands are good for the economy too?

While there are all sorts of measurable benefits ranging from air and water quality to biodiversity and habitat protection, we also track how public lands bring money and jobs into your local economy. For more than 20 years, we've been publishing a national assessment that highlights economic contributions associated with recreational use on National Wildlife Refuge System lands. Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge was featured in the latest assessment along with more than 160 other refuges and wetland management districts. Here are some highlights.

The refuge was established by an act of Congress in 1924 to provide breeding habitat for migratory birds, fish, other wildlife and plants. Bordering Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, along the Mississippi River, the refuge encompasses one of the largest blocks of floodplain habitat in the lower 48 states and boasts healthy habitats and great fishing to this day. Covering more than 240,000 acres and extending 261 river miles from north to south, the refuge supports abundant native fish, wildlife and plants. Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge also collaborates through a partnership between local governments and agencies across four states, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, several dedicated Friends groups and various nongovernmental organizations who collectively maintain the river's environmental health and water quality.

As a river-focused refuge, the refuge provides excellent opportunities for boating, fishing and birding. Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge's scenic beauty and fee free access attracts people year-round from all over the world. The refuge is an anglers' paradise, and is known for walleye, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and bluegill. There are year-round fishing opportunities including many ice fishing locations. Fishing is allowed in accordance with state and federal regulations.

The refuge is more than just fishing and boating though! Sportswomen and men from across the country come for quality waterfowl hunting, trapping and other consumptive uses like berrypicking. These recreational activities draw tens of thousands of visitors annually. Although boating provides the most intimate look at this river system, many visitors also enjoy viewing the refuge's wild and scenic beauty from blufftop overlooks in state and local parks bordering the refuge.

In 2017, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge had almost 3 million recreational visits which contributed to the economies of four states. The contribution of recreational spending in local communities was associated with more than 1,400 jobs, $35.8 million in employment income, $9 million in total tax revenue and $124.9 million in economic output.

Refuges like Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge help fuel the American economy. These tangible benefits are in addition to the invaluable ecosystem services like flood and erosion protection, air and water purification and wildlife habitat protection.

Learn more by checking out the full report: Banking on Nature 2017: The Economic Contributions of National Wildlife Refuge Recreational Visitation to Local Communities

Learn more about Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.


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