A new study says wildlife tourism is a $19 billion industry along the Gulf Coast and urges states to focus spending of settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill on restoring sensitive areas that keep guides, hotels and others in business.
The study, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Walton Family Foundation and released Tuesday, draws largely on data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and parish/county tourism bureaus.
It takes into account the economic value of a variety of ecotourism interests, from hunting and fishing to birdwatching and dolphin tours.
The groups say the findings underscore the urgency of using money expected from oil spill defendants to restore ecosystems damaged after BP's Macondo blew wild in April 2010.