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      Nature Report: Wildlife Value

      Wildlife has a tremendous economic value and a recent report by the United States Fish and Wildlife service highlights the value of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge to the economy of the Rio Grande Valley.

      Boyd Blihovde, manager Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service just published data that shows that every dollar spent at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife refuge brings in $37 to the local economy." Nearly, 30 million dollars in local economic benefits was generated by the refuge on a budget of $801,000 or roughly $37 for every $1 in budget expenditures. Nationwide the country's 560 national wildlife refuges pump $2.4 billion into the economy and support more than 35,000 private-sector jobs.

      Blihovde, "We just recently had the Rio Grande Valley bird festival. Those folks stayed in hotels, local hotels, they camped out, they spent money in restaurants and that is all because they are here primarily to see the national wildlife refuges."

      Wily Sekula, birdwatcher "As you can see there are a number of people that came here from out of state to observe these birds on this festival. And there is not only the festival, but especially in the winter there is a big draw for about six months out of the year as there are a lot of birders that come to this part of the state." With more than 200,000 visitors annually, Laguna Atascosa's 95,000 acres are a major attraction for birders, hikers, hunters, and fishermen. Blihovde, "The lower Rio Grande valley has the potential to become one of the meccas for ecotourism in the nation|I think Laguna Atascosa and the whole valley is just an untapped resource for ecotourism that can do nothing but grow. We have a great opportunity here if we work together as partners to increase the tourism."

      With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore.