What is the Value of Nature and Wildlife?

ENJOYING A WALKING TRAIL IN GRACE FARMS' BEAUTIFUL 80-ACRE PRESERVE IN NEW CANNAN, CONNECTICUT. THE RIVER BUILDING IS IN THE BACKGROUND. IMAGE: IWAN BAAN, THANKS TO THE GRACE FARMS FOUNDATION. 

FOR CONSERVATIONIST AND WILDLIFE DOCUMENTARIAN MARK FOWLER, PRESERVING NATURE IS A LIFE-LONG PASSION IMAGE: THANKS TO THE GRACE FARMS FOUNDATION. 

Op-Ed by: Mark Fowler,  
Nature Initiative Director at Grace Farms Foundation and Chairman of Wildlife at The Explorer’s Club.

Grace Farms Foundation is a not-for-profit organization supporting initiatives in the areas of nature, arts, justice, community, and faith. The Foundation owns and operates Grace Farms, a diverse natural habitat in New Canaan, CT where the award-winning River building designed by SANAA seamlessly integrates into 80 acres of open space.

What is the Value
of
Nature and Wildlife?

For many people, in order to value nature and wildlife they need to better understand the economic benefits.  In the past nature advocates haven’t been comfortable assigning a dollar value to nature and wildlife, but they ought to think twice. The facts and figures clearly show the benefits of preserving wild lands and wildlife – and how those benefits go beyond intrinsic value. 

ONE OF EVERY $100 OF ALL GOODS AND SERVICES PRODUCED IN THE U.S. COMES FROM WILDLIFE RECREATION, INCLUDING WATCHING A GREAT BLUE HERON FISH. IMAGE: THANKS TO GORDON ELLMERS. 

Every 10 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts a study on the value of wildlife-associated recreation.  Since the study began, the numbers have grown exponentially. The report finds that anglers, hunters and wildlife viewers spent $145 billion in 2011. That’s 1% of the GDP of the U.S. It means that one in every $100 of all goods and services produced in the U.S. comes from wildlife recreation. Watching wildlife accounted for the single largest share of that money - $55 billion – and 71.8 million Americans, more than one in five – took part in wildlife viewing activities.

THE RIVER BUILDING BLENDS GENTLY INTO THE LANDSCAPE AT GRACE FARMS. IMAGE: IWAN BAAN, THANKS TO GRACE FARMS

The importance of nature-based tourism as a way of saving wildlife is not only being recognized here in the U.S. but also around the world. Some countries are absolutely banking on it, both to save wildlife and to build their emerging economies.  

Not only can responsible tourism protect wilderness, wildlife and open space, it also has a role in preserving cultures and building communities by employing local staff, using local products and initiating local community development, the communities closest to and taking part in the wildlife tourism industry can benefit the most.

THE MASAI OF KENYA ONCE KILLED LIONS AS A RITE OF PASSAGE. NOW THEY ARE LEADERS OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IN KENYA. IMAGE: AMERICANSPIRIT⎮DREAMSTIME.COM 

Number One Industry? Tourism 

Tourism is now the number one industry in many sub-Saharan African countries and is a strong incentive for getting community buy-in for wildlife preservation. Recent wildlife tourism data for Africa verifies the high value of charismatic species such as elephants, rhinos and lions that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.  That value can easily be seen in job growth and rising income.

TOURIST DOLLARS GENERATED TO SEE WHITE RHINO IN PRESERVES LIKE SOUTH AFRICA'S KRUGER NATIONAL PARK,  HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN SAVING THIS AND MANY OTHER SPECIES. IMAGE: THANKS TO MARC CRONJE. 

In 2014, tourism created 411,700 jobs in Tanzania, and employed 680,800 people in South Africa. In fact, employment data from 2008 shows that tourism added more jobs to the economy than other industries such as trade, agriculture and manufacturing.

In Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, tourism is the prime revenue earner and plays a key role in economic development.  In South Africa alone, the travel and tourism GDP was $8.1 billion in 2013. 

Responsible Nature Based Tourism: A Win for Everyone

NATURE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS ARE PART OF THE FUN AT GRACE FARMS, NEW CANAAN, CT. HERE MARK FOWER, NATURE INITIATIVE DIRECTOR, EXPLAINS THE WAYS OF A TURTLE. IMAGE: THANKS TO THE GRACE FARMS FOUNDATION.  

With so many economic and environmental benefits, responsible nature-based tourism is in everyone’s best interest. Tourism offers jobs and economic benefits, which can empower local communities, while helping to preserve wildlife and wild lands, in the U.S. and around the world. 

THE EARTH FRIENDLY RIVER BUILDING MEANDERS OVER THE ROLLING LANDSCAPE OF GRACE FARMS. DESIGNED BY SANAA ARCHITECTS, IT IS IN THE PROCESS OF LEED CERTIFICATION. 

Our Thanks to:

Mark Fowler 
Grace Farms Follow them on Twitter or Facebook
and to
Marc Cronje 
and Gordon Ellmers for generously sharing their wildlife photography

MORE: 

Bringing Nature to the People, Grace Farms and Mark Fowler

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