Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited the 49th Annual National Recreational Vehicle (RV) Trade Show today to highlight the economic impact generated by outdoor recreation in the United States -- including opportunities at parks and other scenic and historic places -- and to encourage Americans to take part in growing local economies and creating jobs through tourism, travel and connecting with America's great outdoors.
"RV's play a special role in providing Americans a time-honored way of reaching their camping, fishing, hunting and other recreation destinations," Secretary Salazar said. "And, as a virtually 100 percent American industry, the RV industry plays a key role in our nation's economy, employing tens of thousands of men and women right here at home."
In his remarks, Salazar noted the important relationship between the Department of the Interior and RV owners. In 2010, RV travelers spent nearly 2.3 million nights at National Parks -- up 10 percent from 2008.
"RV owners are often great champions for conservation as they know firsthand that the investments we make in our parks, historic sites and other public lands not only allow people to enjoy these incredible places, but they also help grow local economies across the country," Salazar said.
Public lands managed by Interior draw more than 400 million visits a year. According to some recent non-governmental estimates, outdoor recreation, conservation and heritage initiatives support as many as 8.4 million jobs and provide as much as $1 trillion in annual economic benefits. Additionally, one in twenty U.S. jobs are in the recreation economy -- more than there are doctors, lawyers, or teachers.
The RV industry is a major player in the outdoor recreation economy, with more than 12,000 RV-related businesses operating in the U.S. with combined annual revenues of more than $37.5 billion, according the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). RVIA estimates the industry employs 375,000 Americans -- particularly in Indiana where 82% percent of recreational vehicles are made.
Salazar also highlighted a report issued earlier this month from Interior that outlines more than 100 conservation and recreation projects -- two in each state -- representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
The report is part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to support local conservation initiatives across the country. The report includes 24 projects to construct trails, 23 to conserve and provide recreational access to rivers, 20 to create and improve access to urban parks, and 13 to restore and conserve significant landscapes and ecosystems.
Later in the morning, Salazar also visited Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Indiana, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is conserving forest, wetland, and grassland habitat for more than 280 species of migratory birds, river otters, the rare copperbelly water snake and other wildlife. There, he met with employees and stakeholders to discuss the vital importance of conservation efforts to ensure Americans' access to the outdoors and economic strength for future generations.