top of page

What's a Grizzly Worth?

Although no study has been conducted that directly measures the economic value of grizzly bears, much has been done to document the value of protecting their wild habitat. And the overall contribution of wildlife and related activities to state and community coffers has been evaluated in some studies.

A 2016 report by Headwaters Economics shows that visitor spending in gateway communities around Yellowstone Park totaled roughly $500 million and created nearly 8,000 jobs in 2015. For details, see: Economic Impact of National Parks by Headwaters Economics. Headwaters Economics also has extensive information on the value of public lands, parks and wilderness to local economies.

  • A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 4.1 million visits to Yellowstone National Park in 2015 totaled $493.6 million in spending in communities near the park. That spending supported 7,737 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $638.6 million.

  • A 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife associated recreation, (U.S. Department of Interior, October 2002) showed that 82 million U.S. residents, 16 years old and older participated in wildlife recreation, and spent $38.4 billion pursuing these activities.  During that year 34.1 million people fished, 13 million people hunted and 66.1 million people participated in wildlife watching activities. 


  • In the 2001 survey referenced above, wildlife activities (total) accounted for the following annual expenditures by state: Idaho, $982,423; Montana, $943,118; Wyoming, $634,049.


  • Nationwide wildlife watching activities are growing in relation to hunting and fishing: in a comparison between the 1991, 1996, and 2001 nationwide surveys, the total number of sportsmen fell from 40 million in 1991 to 37.8 million in 2001.  However, participation in wildlife watching activities increased from 62.9 million in 1996 to 66.1 million in 2001.  And, expenditures for wildlife watching trips and equipment increased by 21% from 1991-1996 and by 10% from 1996-2001. 


  • Gundars Rudzitis’ research from 1960-1990 shows that protection of national parks and wilderness areas was associated with population growth rates 2 to 6 times more than those for other non-metropolitan areas, and 2 to 3 times more than those for metropolitan areas.  He found that protected lands drew new residents who were willing to sacrifice a certain amount of income in order to live in the higher quality natural environments that they perceived federally-owned landscapes to provide. 


  • In a study by Dr. Thomas Powers (2001), counties across the nation containing national parks and monuments have shown impressive economic vitality, including high rates of population, jobs and real income growth.  A review of all large national parks in the nation over the last 30 years indicates that population growth was almost 4 times faster than the national average, and job growth was almost 3 times faster.  Of the counties containing large national parks, 84% had above average population growth, 82% had above average job growth, and 80% had above average aggregate real income growth.


  • A 1997 report by David Pimentel, a professor of agriculture and life sciences at Cornell University, showed that wild animals deliver $41 billion per year to the U.S. economy through fishing and hunting dollars.


  • The Wyoming Game and Fish Department reports that wildlife watching alone directly or indirectly generates revenues of almost $235 million a year, and the 1.7 billion dollar a year tourist industry rests “on the foundation of wildlife and open space.”


  • A 1989 study by Jim Duffield of the University of Montana found that 94% of visitors to Yellowstone reported participating in wildlife observation—a higher share than any other activity measured, including geyser viewing, hiking and fishing.  Likewise, 95% of Park visitors reported that observing a variety of wildlife was an important or moderately important reason for going to Yellowstone.


  • A 1994 report by the U.S. Forest Service entitled “Insights into the Economic Value of Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone Recovery Zone” notes that wildlife viewers spend on average $563.00 on a trip to Yellowstone.  Recent Forest Service surveys also suggest that non-consumptive wildlife uses are increasing, along with their economic contribution.


  • According to Defenders of Wildlife, the communities surrounding Yellowstone have enjoyed a $10 million increase in tourist spending since wolves were returned to the area in the mid-1990s. 


  • In 2001, non-consumptive wildlife uses outstripped hunting and fishing in terms of the wildlife related contributions to the Idaho state’s economy.


  • In a 2000 study, Forest Service economist John Loomis estimated western wilderness economic values at 7 billion dollars.

bottom of page