Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

How are we doing?

Percent of Federal Recreational Land (2012)

In 2012, the Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) ranked fifth among 12 western MSAs, with 28.9% of its land cover federal recreational land. The Las Vegas MSA ranked first with 84.9%, and the San Antonio MSA ranked last at 0.02%. Three MSAs in Texas had less than one percent of their MSA held as federal recreational land, while the remaining nine MSAs had larger shares, ranging from 15.0% to 84.9%.

Why is it important?

Outdoor recreational land provides neighboring communities with direct social and economic benefits. Scenic views, outdoor recreational opportunities, and open space have been linked to amenity driven economic development, increased real estate values, and positive public health outcomes. Moreover, recreational land and outdoor leisure opportunities attract visitor spending, which in turn serves as an important input to local retail and service sectors. One study has estimated direct spending due to tourism at $19 billion in Arizona during 2012, supporting approximately 160,000 full-time equivalent jobs statewide.

What are the key trends?

The growth rate in national park visits in the Tucson MSA was 8.7% in 2015, a continuation of the positive growth from 2013 that broke a four-year trend during which park visits declined. Since 2001, Tucson has seen some volatility in visits, with rates increasing during periods of economic growth and decreasing during the Great Recession. The growth rate in park visits has increased during the past few years in Arizona, but was affected by the Recession, falling 6.8 percentage points between 2009 and 2012. Rates have remained steady nationwide during the period of 2001-2013 with a substantial increase in 2014.

How is it measured?

The percentage of federal recreational land is computed by dividing Type A, B, and C federal lands by total land area for a geography. Type A lands include National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service; Type B includes Wilderness Areas; Type C includes Bureau of Land Management and other Forest Service lands, as well as Oregon and California Revested Grant lands (OLM). Data are courtesy of a 2012 Headwaters Economics report. While aggregate land-use totals are accurate estimates as of 2012, data releases by agencies vary. Percent change in National Park visits is computed from National Park Service (NPS), Integrated Resource Management Applications (IRMA) Visitor Use Statistics, which are published annually.