This is the second post in a series about wildlife tourism and the Gulf Coast economy.
By Will Lindsey and Rachel Schott, Environmental Defense Fund
Datu Research LLC’s recently released report, “Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy,” shows how wildlife tourism is a vital component of the Gulf Coast economy and links the industry’s success to the health of the Gulf’s unique environment and ecosystems. Taking a closer look at the report allows one to see the full economic impact of wildlife tourism on each of the five Gulf Coast states as well as the businesses directly and indirectly associated with wildlife tourism in the region. In coastal areas, tourism jobs can account for 20-36 percent of all private sector employment.
Louisiana receives more than 2 million wildlife tourists every year, and the state’s coastal parishes host nearly 4,400 wildlife tourism-related businesses. Wildlife tourism includes recreational fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. These guide and outfitter companies, which tend be small businesses, have a big economic impact on their communities. There are also hundreds of lodging and dining establishments that cater to wildlife tourists, providing a significant cumulative impact on the local economy.
A Louisiana-based guide company, Lost Land Environmental Tours, is one such business that provides services for wildlife tourists by offering tours of the swamps and wetlands. Their guides engage with and educate customers on issues that threaten coastal Louisiana, such as wetlands loss and erosion, and provide information about the importance of preserving, protecting and rebuilding this valuable natural resource.
Lost Land is increasingly concerned about the ecological health of the Gulf, as it is directly tied to the viability of their business and other outdoor businesses. “We strive to show people the beauty and the lushness of our ecosystem,” said Marie Gould, co-founder of Lost Land. “We end up showing people small patches of the way things should be and a lot of dead and dying forests.”
Numerous wildlife tourism businesses stand to lose if coastal wetlands loss is not addressed with timely restoration projects. Funding from the RESTORE Act and other monies related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are expected to provide monetary support for these urgent projects. This funding is needed to protect and restore the natural environment as well as the economic viability of the entire Gulf Coast region.