In a study, the first of its kind, the ""U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service"":http://www.fws.gov/ reported Wednesday that homes near urban areas and refuges more often increase home value and help support the surrounding community's tax base.[IMAGE]
The survey, conducted by economic researchers at the University of North Carolina, found increases in home values for three regions: 7 percent to 9 percent in the Southeast, 4 percent to 5 percent in the Northeast, and 3 percent to 6 percent in California and Nevada.
""National wildlife refuges are public treasures that protect imperiled wildlife and delight visitors,"" Dan Ashe, service director, said in a statement. ""These findings remind us that refuges also boost community health, sometimes in unexpected ways,"" the director continued. ""National wildlife refuges enrich local communities ├â┬ó├óÔé¼┬Ø├óÔÇÜ┬¼ even in a lean economy ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô and generate[COLUMN_BREAK]
The service operates the National Wild Life Refuge system, which provides protection and habitat for plants and animals; as well as scenic vistas, wildlife watching, cultural and educational events; and recreation, such as fishing and hiking.
The system comprises 556 refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering more than 150 million acres.
In addition, refuge tourism also plays a role in in the increase, with 45 million people visiting last year. A 2006 analysis by the service called Banking on Nature found that more than 34.8 million visits to refuges in fiscal year 2006 generated $1.7 billion in sales, almost 27,000 jobs, and $542.8 million in employment income in regional economies.
Overall, calculated in 2000 dollars, the 14 refuges in the Southeast examined in the study added $122 million to local property values. The 11 refuges studied in the Northeast added $95 million. The 11 refuges studied in California and Nevada added $83 million.
""Our wildlife refuges are strong economic engines that generate and support jobs in communities across the country,"" Jim Kurth, refuge system chief, said in a statement.
""When President Obama signed an Executive Order earlier this year to promote travel and tourism in the United States he was affirming that investing in our refuges and promoting them to visitors ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô from here and around the world ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô can contribute to both an improved National Wildlife Refuge System and economic growth for local communities,"" he added.