Most Americans know our public lands as the places we go to get away from it all and enjoy ourselves in the outdoors. Whether it is strolling through a national park, hiking in the backcountry, skiing, hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, or going boating, these places provide immense enjoyment. Conservation, however, also has enormous economic value, supporting a specific economy in recreation, restoration, and renewable energy development, all of which support numerous jobs. What’s more, these jobs in outdoor retail, the concessionaire business, outfitters and guides, and the construction industry to repair damaged lands and build renewable energy are frequently located in rural areas.
Americans are feeling the pinch of tough economic times and know that jobs are the key to supporting our families and lifestyles. They know what the August 2011 U.S. unemployment rate of 9.1 percent means to them, whether they have a job or not. And rural America, the location of the majority of public lands, was the hardest hit by the Great Recession, with many rural counties losing more jobs than the national average in late 2009 and early 2010. Rural America began to feel the effects of the recession early on, which was amplified by the fact that 90 percent of the poorest counties in the United States are rural. Luckily, public lands can provide a vast number of jobs that cannot be outsourced.
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