Economic Development

Wilma Dykeman Economic Report 

Economic Benefits of Land Conservation – North Carolina 2009 

  • Tourism
  • Hunting and Fishing
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Military Readiness
  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Retirees
  • Storm Damage Protection
  • Health

North Carolina’s wide range of natural resources and scenic beauty enhance North Carolinians’ quality of life and provide multiple economic benefits.


  • According to the State Division of Tourism, scenery is North Carolina’s strongest draw for tourism, a $17 billion industry that employs 200,000 people.1
  • North Carolina enjoys 49 million visitors annually, primarily for the state’s outstanding natural resources.2
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway alone attracts nearly 20 million visitors and contributes more than $2 billion to the regional economy each year. 2
  • North Carolina State Parks attract 13.4 million visitors and generate roughly $400 million each year.3

Hunting and Fishing

  • Fish and wildlife recreation generates $4.3 billion with 3.4 million participants annually in North Carolina.2
  • The economic stimulus of hunting and fishing, which considers revenue gained in industries related to fishing and hunting in a secondary way, equates to $4.7 million a day for North Carolina.4
  • Hunting and fishing directly supports 29,000 jobs and provides $818 million worth of paychecks around the state.4
  • North Carolinians spend more than $1.7 billion annually on their recreational hunting and fishing activities. 5
  • Spending by sportsmen supports a wide range of businesses while benefiting wildlife conservation and habitat protection. The money generated by hunting and fishing has a ripple effect throughout the state, for rural areas, mom and pop businesses, the tourism and travel industry, manufacturing and retail, and much more.5
  • In 2006 anglers, hunters and wildlife viewers spent $2.62 billion in retail sales ($2.05 billion by residents and $570 million by nonresidents), creating $1.26 billion in salaries and wages, and supporting 45,224 jobs.4

Outdoor Recreation

  • North Carolina’s state parks system provides important benefits to local residents and visitors to the state in the form of conservation, outdoor recreation activities and educational opportunities.  Additionally, state parks and their facilities, services and amenities contribute economically to local communities and the state through the expenditures of tourists. 3
  • 1.86 million people, or 27 percent of the population, participate in wildlife viewing in North Carolina annually. 6
  • North Carolina’s state parks potentially contribute $289 million to local economies annually, while providing $120 million to local residents’ income.3
  • 2.6 million people per year observed wildlife in North Carolina; this group spends $916 annually.6

Military Readiness

  • With Base Realignment and Closure, FortBragg and CampLejeune are increasing in terms of size and footprint of their operations.
  • Encroaching development to these installations threatens the military’s ability to conduct training.
  • Conservation lands around the installations buffer operations, increase readiness and provide property for the military to conduct trainings.
  • CampLejeune has protected over 10,000 acres and FortBragg has protected nearly 14,000 acres, leveraging NC conservation trust funds with federal dollars.

Agriculture and Forestry

  • North Carolina agriculture is a $68 billion industry.1
  • Agriculture accounts for 22 percent of the state’s income.2
  • 20 percent of the North Carolina work force are employed in agriculture related industries.2
  • North Carolina is 8th in US cash receipts in agriculture and produces $2 billion in agricultural exports. 7
  • Cost of Community Services studies in five North Carolina counties have determined that residential properties actually cost each county more in needed services than they provide in revenue, while farm and forest landowners require less in services7
  • The forest products industry contributes approximately $30 billion annually to the state’s economy, providing over 100,000 jobs for North Carolinians.8


  • NC’s natural beauty is responsible for attracting retirees to the state.  In general, these immigrants are affluent and bring economic resources without the cost of providing public schools for their children.  If 100 retired households come to a community in a year, each with a retirement income of $40,000, their impact is similar to that of a new business spending $4 million annually in the community.  North Carolina reports a net migration of individuals over the age of 60 of 30,807 from 1999-2000.  That accounts for $1,232 million in spending in the state of North Carolina over 5 years.

Storm Damage Protection

  • NC’s coastal wetlands provide $620 million in storm protection services every year. 1


  • Parks, trails and greenways provide recreational opportunities – important in North Carolina, a state with the 16th highest rate of obesity, fifth highest if you count just children.
  • Cost of treating drinking water is reduced when watersheds are protected.
  • EPA estimates it is anywhere from 20 to 400 times more expensive to treat contamination than to prevent it.
  • Air pollution causes in the range of a half-million missed work days each year, and millions of cases where North Carolinians experience symptoms like shortness of breath and runny nose.9
  • Air pollution leads to an estimated 6,000 hospital admissions for respiratory disease, 2,000 for cardiovascular disease, 1,500 new cases of asthma and 2,500 new cases of chronic bronchitis each year. 9


  1. Economic Impact of North Carolina’s Natural Resources. One North Carolina Naturally.
  2. Greenwood, J.B. & Vick, C.G. (2008). Economic Contribution of Visitors to Selected North Carolina State Parks. North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources: Division of Parks and Recreation.
  3. The 2006 Economic Benefits of Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife Watching in North Carolina. (June 30, 2008). Prepared by Southwick and Associates, Inc. for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
  4. Press Release: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. (Sept. 3, 2008) Raleigh, NC. Hunting and Fishing Have Major Economic Impact in Tar Heel State.
  5. Economic Impacts Fact Sheet. North Carolina Birding Trail.  Retrieved October 9, 2007.
  6. North Carolina Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, 2008 Annual Report. Available at:  Retrieved April 14, 2009.
  7. North Carolina Division of Forest Resources
  8. De Brun, C. T. F. (eds.). (2007).  The Economic Benefits of Land ConservationLand Trust Alliance.
  9.  Madsen, T. & Ouzts, E. (2006). Air Pollution and Public Health in North Carolina. Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center. Available at:



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