The Economic Benefits of Wolves

Wolves may not be typically thought of as a source of income, but they can provide significant economic benefits.

These include the direct economic impacts of tourism and related activities and the indirect benefits derived from the improvements in ecological health wolf restoration can bring to an area from which wolves have long been absent.

A boost for local economies

Direct monetary benefits come from wolf tourism, which gives local economies a considerable boost.
A survey of visitors to Yellowstone National Park conducted by John Duffield of the University of Montana from 2004 to 2006 found that more than 150,000 people from all over the world come to the park each year specifically because of wolves (Duffield et al. 2006). This wolf-related tourism brings in $35.5 million annually to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, stimulating economic activity through local communities (Duffield et al. 2006). Wolf-based tourism can be a lucrative business for small outfitters and business owners in and around Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone National Park 2011). By offering activities such as wolf-watching tours to thousands of visitors, these businesses cumulatively bring in about $5 million or more each year, and this revenue is steadily growing (Yellowstone National Park 2011).

These direct benefits are not limited to the Northern Rockies. A wolf education and conservation organization, the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, contributes $3 million to the local economy and creates the economic equivalent of 66 full-time jobs (Schaller 1996). The reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area has generated $3.2 million to $3.8 million in annual net benefits at the regional level (Kroeger et al. 2006).

In 2005, a study of ecotourism in northeastern North Carolina found tourism related to red wolves to have significant revenue potential and the interest of both tourists and local residents (Lash and Black 2005). Surveys in states surrounding red wolf territory have shown that people are more likely to visit an area with red wolves present, particularly if activities related to red wolves are offered as part of an ecotourism opportunity (Rosen 1997).

Added value for ecosystems

Wolves can have a positive impact on the ecosystem services that economically benefit us (Kroeger et al. 2006). These are the services that healthy ecosystems provide such as furnishing goods like timber and fish and natural functions like air and water purification and erosion control.

For example, wolves can help improve conditions for fish by changing patterns of deer and elk browsing and reducing streamside grazing (Beschta and Ripple 2009, 2012; Ripple and Beschta 2004; White et al. 2003). The resulting increase in riparian vegetation lowers water temperatures, improving habitat conditions for trout and creating more fishing opportunities for anglers (Kroeger et al. 2006).

The bottom line is that wolf conservation pays.

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