Wildlife refuge in northwest Missouri contributes $3.5 million to economy

Monday, November 11, 2013 | 5:23 p.m. CST

MOUND CITY — The Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge produced about $3.5 million in economic benefits in 2011 for the region around the refuge in northwest Missouri, according to a new study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The report said the benefits were derived from retail sales, taxes and job income, along with visitor spending on recreation activities at the refuge near Mound City, The St. Joseph News-Press reported. The refuge provides habitat for bald eagles, snow geese and ducks among other species.

Squaw Creek was one of 92 of the nation's 550 national wildlife refuges involved in the study, which examined spending in areas within 50 miles of each refuge.

The Squaw Creek refuge returned $7.13 for every $1 appropriated, the study said. Total spending for 2011 amounted to $2.6 million, with nonresidents responsible for $1.5 million or 57 percent. Employment income registered $1 million for the year, and tax revenue was $411,000.

"For Holt County and our community, it's significant," said Squaw Creek manager Ron Bell. "It's the lifeblood of our community. We've got a quarter-million visitors (annually) right now."

Bell attributed the revenues and attendance to numerous improvements during the past 25 years, such as wetlands updates at the refuge. While overall attendance dropped in 2012 because of the drought, there were more than 263,000 birding visits in fiscal year 2011 and birding-related spending amounted to $2.3 million.

The survey also found employment in the Squaw Creek area grew by 5 percent during the past decade.

Audrey's Motel in Mound City banks on support from hunters, owner Hank Just said.

"They have a positive impact," Just said of hunters. "Most of the people that go to Squaw Creek during the rest of the year are day-trippers who buy gas and meals in town. If Squaw Creek weren't here, we'd definitely feel it."

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