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Wildfire, national park visitation, and changes in regional economic activity

Author(s): Man-Kuen Kim, Paul M. Jakus
Year Published: 2019

The visibility, safety, and health effects of seasonal wildfires may affect recreational visits to national parks (NPs), even if fires occur outside of park boundaries. This study statistically quantifies the effect of nearby wildfire on tourist flows to each of Utah's five NPs (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion). Using monthly data from May 1993 to December 2015, we empirically link wildfire activities (measured as monthly area burned within 80 km, 160 km, and 320 km radii) to monthly visits to each national park. Results show that wildfire has negative and statistically significant effects on visitation in four of the five NPs. Aggregate annual visitation losses at each park are between 0.5% and 1.5% during a typical (mean) fire year. The negative regional economic impacts of seasonal wildfire at all national parks in Utah are estimated to be between $2.7 and $4.5 million, with an associated loss of between 31 and 53 jobs depending on the extent of area burned. Economic impacts of reduced visitor expenditures are distributed unequally, with proportionately greater negative effects occurring in tourism-dependent rural economies.

Citation: Kim, Man-Keun; Jakus, Paul M. 2019. Wildfire, national park visitation, and changes in regional economic activity. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism 26:34-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jort.2019.03.007
Topic(s): Fire & Economics, Fire & Recreation
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 19797
FRAMES RCS number: 57721
Record updated: Jul 17, 2019