Study reveals refuge benefits

A recent study conducted for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a positive economic impact on area communities by several National Wildlife Refuges. Included in the most recent study is J. Clark Salyer NWR located on the lower reach of the Souris River, within North Dakota.

According to the “Banking on Nature Report,” the J. Clark Salyer Refuge returned $2.77 for every dollar appropriated. The report is based on 2011 dollars. J. Clark Salyer is a nearly 60,000 acre refuge that stretches along 45 miles of the Souris River.

Frank Durbian is manager of the Souris River Basin Refuge Complex and is stationed at J. Clark Salyer. Durbian had requested that the Salyer Refuge be included among those recently surveyed for economic impact.

When asked what was the most significant revelation by the study, Durbian responded, “Essentially the amount. There is a positive impact of the refuge on the local economy. It has economic value as well as value to wildlife. Also, we are happy to see people recreating out here and doing their thing.”

Refuge staff assist the formulation of the report by supplying information from the field. According to the report, 80,340 visits were made to J. Clark Salyer in 2011. There are fishing and hunting opportunities at J. Clark Salyer but a large portion of activity on the refuge comes from non-consumptive endeavors such as automobile tours and photography. The impact of both residents and non-residents is included in the report.

“We keep track of estimates annually,” said Durbian. “When you see the number of hunters and bird watchers that come through here you know they need gasoline, food and a place to stay. We generate quite a bit of revenue in addition to the appropriation of dollars to run refuges today.”

According to the report’s economic analysis, J. Clark Salyer generated $4.3 million in economic benefit for Bottineau, McHenry and Ward counties during the 2011 fiscal year. The operating budget at J. Clark Salyer in 2011 was about $2 million.