Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Regional Economic Growth Through Ecological Restoration of the Niagara Gorge Rim - The Wild Ones Niagara Proposal

The removal of the [Robert Moses] gorge parkway (RMP) and the restoration of natural landscapes would create a self sustaining environment attractive to eco-tourists, a ribbon of wilderness extending north from the natural phenomenon of the falls past the Old Growth Forest of DeVeaux Woods, Whirlpool, Devil’s Hole, to the wildlife refuge on the Lewiston Plateau, and beyond to Joseph Davis State Park, to Fort Niagara, a varied environmental viewscape for hiking, bicycling, bird watching, plant, wildflower, and butterfly identification, photography and other activities appealing to families who enjoy green vacations. 

This population would not be drawn, obviously, from those who might select the Galapagos Islands for a vacation or the rain forests of Costa Rica, but would consist of a mid-range eco-tourist demographic, families, couples, organization members—a new group of tens of thousands, if not hundreds, a group who would respond to the green marketing of our region. The Niagara Frontier almost asks to be packaged for eco-tourists: the shores of the upper Niagara and Lake Ontario, the winter gorge for numbers and varieties of visiting gulls, the Klydell Wetlands in N. Tonawanda, the Iroquois National Reserve and other areas. Special bird watching tours that incorporate hotel package deals and other incentives could extend the season here both spring and fall when over 40 species of migrating warblers visit us, for example.

A restoration project of this magnitude in a world-famous location would create world-wide attention for years as forests regenerated and native understory plants were nurtured and established. Film-makers would create documentaries. Articles would be written, both scholarly and for the popular press, newspapers, magazines, Olmsted devotees, landscape architects and restorationists, botanists, high school and university classes and programs with environmental and ecological concentrations would schedule visits, classes or tours. The publicity generated by the project would be worth millions. If there is ever a proposal that begged for a proper and thorough study, this is it.

While we might note, even at some length, there is a potential for economic growth as a result of traffic rerouting, it is not a part of this study. However, it should be noted that traffic rerouting and the conversion of RMP gorge land to non-motorized use or NYS park land has economic value.

In March, 2009, the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts, Amherst prepared a document, The NYS Parks System: A Economic Asset to the Empire State, for Parks and Trails New York. “This report documents another contribution of the State Park System—its impact on the state and regional economies.”
            Findings: pages Introduction,  pages 3-5:
1.                    NY State parks produced about $1.9 billion in annual sales for private businesses in the areas around the parks.
2.                    40% of visitor spending ($744 million) comes from visitors living outside the communities in which parks are located. This non-local spending is key for generating net benefits for the parks, since local businesses would not have gained these customers without the presence of parks to attract visitors to the area.
3.                    The $1.9 billion in economic activity generates revenues for the state through sales, business, and income taxes.
4.                    Visitor spending produces about 13,500 jobs.
5.                    The average compensation for these jobs is about $50,000 per year, including benefits.
6.                    Significant Additional Economic Benefits include
a.    Maintaining the natural environment
b.    Providing an escape for millions of New Yorkers, and others around the world
c.    Protecting the state’s heritage for future generations
d.    Maintaining the state’s ecosystem and biodiversity
e.    Providing opportunities for recreation
f.     Reducing the negative impacts from pollution
                                                       i.     Note: NY’s Natural Heritage Program states Calcareous Cliff Communities are directly affected and harmed by road pollution
g.    Improving health outcomes
h.    Preserving areas of historic importance
i.      Influence business location decisions by contributing to a better quality of life for employees
7.                    This report challenges the presumption that there are stark trade-offs between generating jobs and protecting the environment.
8.                    The direct state spending increases employment, supports local businesses, and generates numerous ripple effects throughout the regional economies.
9.                    Measuring the Types of Economic Impacts-
a.    Direct effects: the impact generated directly by the expenditure itself (i.e. state spending used to hire staff or to repair  [or remove] a road;
b.    Indirect effects: the new jobs and economic output associated with increased demand for materials, goods, and services linked to direct spending (i.e when visitors eat in a local restaurant, they create indirect demand for the food that is used to prepare the meal);
c.    Induced effects: the expansion of economic activity that results when people who get jobs are generated by the direct and indirect effects spend their incomes on goods and services.
10.                 Model used – An input-output model based on state-level and county level input-output tables. It captures in great detail:
a.    the relationships that exist between different industries in the production of goods and services,
b.    the interconnections between consumers of goods and services, including households and governments and the various producing industries
c.    enables us to estimate the effects on regional and state economies of an increase in final demand for products or services of a given industry
d.    we can estimate the number of jobs directly created in local supermarkets and food stores
e.    can also estimate the jobs that are directly created in other industries through additional visitor spending.
11.                 Ecosystem Services as Economic Benefit
a.    2004 study (Mates and Reyes) of the economic value of NJ state parks and forests included an estimate of the economic contributions of various ecosystem services (the processes within the natural environment which are essential for sustaining the economy over time: water supply, removing pollutants, supporting soil formation, preventing erosion, securing habitats of species important to humans – insects, and maintaining environmental stability). The study estimated the annual value of these ecosystem services in NJ to be between $395 million and $605 million.
b.    Given the greater size of the NY park system, the benefits of ecosystem service provided by the state parks in NY would be proportionately larger.
c.    US Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a study of the economic impact of wildlife viewing as a recreational activity for the country as a whole and each of the states. (Leonard, 2008). The report estimates wildlife viewing in NYS supports nearly $1.6 billion in sales for the state economy.
d.    NYS Parks provide critical habitat and ecosystems which support wildlife viewing and bird watching.
e.    This review of research studies suggests other economic benefits are sizeable and should not be forgotten when interpreting the economic impacts detailed in the remaining sections of The NYS Parks System: An Economic Asset to the Empire State report.

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