Investing in nature supports the millions of Americans who work in outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing and boating. Our public lands draw hundreds of millions of visitors who support local jobs and businesses in surrounding rural communities. Outdoor recreation attracts every demographic: age, income, gender, geography, race, political orientation, nationality and culture.

  • Local park and recreation agencies generate $154 billion in economic activity annually and support 1.1 million jobs.
  • Rural counties in the western United States with the highest percentage of protected federal land had higher employment and income growth than counties with the lowest percentage of protected public lands.
  • Parks and protected areas provide the key infrastructure for the $887 billion outdoor industry; local parks and recreation agencies alone generate $154 billion in economic activity.


Investing in nature is critical to more than 3 million farmers and ranchers in the United States, whose stewardship of agricultural lands provides abundant, accessible and affordable food and nutrition to America’s families. America’s farmers and ranchers are on the front line of conservation.

  • Voluntary conservation easements have protected millions of acres of land nationally, kept thousands of family-run farms in production, and have a demonstrated ROI of 6 to 1.
  • Ninety-seven percent of U.S. farms are family owned. Agriculture and food production added $992 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, but 31 million acres of agricultural land (a land area the size of Iowa) was lost to development between 1982 and 2012. Without conservation easements, the country would have lost an additional 5 million acres of farmland (roughly the size of Massachusetts) to development.


In addition to the benefits of clean air and water, there are numerous health benefits associated with spending time in nature, and this is true regardless of social and economic circumstances. These benefits include reduced levels of stress (and stress hormones); lower levels of chronic disease, including heart disease and diabetes; reduced obesity; improved immune function; lower frequency of depression and anxiety; and other benefits.

  • Forests are the largest source of drinking water in the U.S., supplying drinking water for 180 million Americans in 68,000 communities.
  • Treating drinking water from an unprotected watershed can cost 10 times as much as from a protected watershed. New York City spent $1.5 billion conserving forested watershed lands, avoiding the cost of an $8 billion to 10 billion new water filtration plant—a savings of up to $8.5 billion.
  • Air pollution causes 200,000 premature deaths, 16,000 pre-term births, and $131
    billion in costs annually in the U.S. Forests provide $6.8 billion in air pollution removal each year.


Nature can be calming, contemplative and even spiritual. Many believe it is our moral responsibility to protect the earth's divine creatures and creation and pass on a rich, natural bounty to future generations.

  • National parks and national heritage areas generate $31 billion in visitor spending and support 454,000 jobs.
  • Spending time in nature can inspire a sense of awe and reduces symptoms of stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.

We all have a stake in making sure the right investments are made to conserve our land, air, wildlife and water – contact us to stay up to date and learn how you can get involved in these important issues.

© 2019 The Nature Conservancy