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Excellent ROI for the Government: National Wildlife Refuges

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Our national wildlife refuge system is a big moneymaker, pumping more than $24 billion into the economy every year and supporting more than 35,000 jobs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

The report comes at a time many polls have shown a growing disconnect between people (both adults and children) and the natural world. The phenomenon has reached such a supposed fever pitch that writer Richard Louv even coined a term to describe it -- nature deficit disorder -- in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods.

It would seem national wildlife refuges offer more than a glimmer of hope that people's interest in nature and wildlife is not only not dead, but robust enough to turn a healthy profit.

The findings of the report, Banking on Nature, were unveiled this month by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell during a visit to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

"Our National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's greatest network of lands dedicated to wildlife conservation, but it is also a powerful economic engine for local communities across the country," Jewell said. "In addition to conserving and protecting public lands for future generations, the report shows that every dollar we invest in our Refuge System generates huge economic dividends for our country."

In her speech, Jewell noted that about 46 million people visit the nation's 561 national wildlife refuges, which encompass more than 150 million acres, and revealed her plan for the refuge system, including an ambitious youth initiative.