Best of the West: #FindYourPark for free on National Public Lands Day; best places to live; Oregon brews up a recycling plan

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Sept. 17, 2018, that you don't want to miss. Image: Saguaro National Park

National parks are waiving entrance fees this Saturday, Sept. 22 to celebrate National Public Lands Day. Established in 1994 by the National Parks Service, the event aims to “connect people to green space in their community, inspire environmental stewardship and encourage use of open space for education, recreation and health.” Additionally, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System and the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

With more than 40 national parks in western states (including the 10 oldest), there is no shortage of history and natural beauty to explore. View a slideshow of Saguaro National Park in Arizona over the years.

Following the trend of increased national park visitation, consumer spending on outdoor recreation continues to grow. New statistics released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis show that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2.2% ($412 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016.

According to E&E News, "A new study conducted on behalf of sporting and conservation groups finds that hunting, angling and "wildlife viewing" at sites across the West managed by the Bureau of Land Management generate tens of millions of dollars in annual tax revenues and support thousands of jobs that generate $1 billion in salaries and wages."

Best Places to Live: Nine of the top 20 best places to live in America are in western states, according to MONEY. Frisco, Texas took the top spot, while communities in Colorado and Washington rounded out the top 10. The rankings considered data on economic health, cost of living, diversity, public education and more. See if your home town made the list.

Wildfire’s Cost: Wildfire can be both a burden and an economic boon for rural western communities. In Washington, a growing number of people depend on wildfires to make at least a portion of their income. In Colorado, land managers are using prescribed burning as a strategy to prevent large and costly fires from spreading. 

Bottling Up Emissions: Refillable glass bottles that can be cleaned and reused without going through the recycling process are spreading across Oregon, where the country’s first statewide refillable bottle system is operating. The new bottles can be refilled up to 40 times and are already being used by seven breweries. 

Extraterrestrial Experience? A solar observatory in New Mexico sparked conspiracy theories after closing for 10 days without a public explanation. Although the Land of Enchantment is often rumored to be a hotspot for UFO activity, authorities denied alien involvement and have reopened the facility to the public.

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