The Economic Importance of Recreation Funding on Central Oregon’s National Forests

At a Glance



United States Endowment for Forestry and Communities, National Forest Foundation, and United States Forest Service under the Innovative Financing for National Forests Grant Program

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Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests

For the National Partnerships Office of the USFS, ECONorthwest conducted studies on trail and recreation resources in Deschutes National Forest (DNF) and Ochoco National Forest (ONF). The goals were to quantify the economic significance of these resources and develop sustainable planning models. Collaborating with local partners like the Deschutes Trail Coalition and Discover Your Forest, the studies assessed the economic value and market impact of trail usage, forecasting future needs based on population growth and demographics. They identified key investment requirements, focusing on equity for minority and elderly visitors.

The second phase of research expanded to include other forms of recreation, such as camping. With over 2,000 miles of trails and 300 recreation sites, including campgrounds, these forests host over 2 million trips annually, projected to exceed 3 million by 2040. This recreational infrastructure is crucial for Central Oregon’s economy, particularly benefiting Deschutes County.

The studies highlighted the challenge of maintaining and developing infrastructure amid growing demand and limited budgets, as traditional funding sources are insufficient. Volunteers contribute over 60,000 hours annually, yet this is not enough to meet all needs. The economic analysis revealed that recreational activities generate approximately $223 million and $12 million in annual benefits for DNF and ONF, respectively, supporting over 2,000 jobs in Central Oregon.

The findings emphasize the need for innovative investment strategies, considering local stakeholders’ priorities. As Central Oregon thrives against the trend of rural decline, investing in its recreational infrastructure is vital for continued prosperity. The studies provide a foundation for identifying beneficiaries and developing a long-term, resilient funding strategy. Partnering with the USFS, the communities of Central Oregon must work to maintain and enhance a sustainable recreational infrastructure system that meets growing needs.

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The Economic Importance of Recreation Funding on Central Oregon’s National Forests