Best of the West: Outdoor recreation’s huge economic impact, WIPP expanding, racing to complete Oroville Dam repairs

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting October 23, 2017, that you don't want to miss. Photo: National Park Service

Outdoor recreation continues to grow in popularity in the U.S., generating $887 billion in annual spending and supporting millions of jobs according to a new report by the American Recreation Coalition.

The National Park Service recorded more than 330 million visits to national parks in 2016, more than 40 of which are in western states. These visits, along with the 791 million visits to state parks in 2016, contributed to spending on equipment, concessions, lodging, retail, transportation, RVs, boats, guide services and more. The Every Kid in a Park Initiative has increased access, giving fourth graders and their families the opportunity to visit National Parks for free.

Read the report to learn more about the economic impacts of outdoor recreation. 

Proposed Park Changes: The National Park Service is considering an increase in entrance fees to 17 national parks to address a backlog of maintenance and infrastructure projects. Many of the most popular parks -- including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion in the West -- could charge up to $70 per vehicle for entrance. 

Making Room: Mining operations to create more storage space at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico, are expected to begin this fall. The facility reopened this spring after a three-year closure, but could reach capacity by the end of the decade without the planned expansion. 

Disaster Relief: The “flash drought” that swept across North Dakota this summer prompted U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp to request additional USDA help for farmers and ranchers to process applications for federal aid such as emergency loans and payments for grazing losses.   

Construction Crunch Time: Repairs to the Oroville Dam spillway have been underway for months, but the race to finish the project before the California rainy season is on. Construction teams have been working nearly around the clock to finish the $500 million job by the Nov. 1 deadline.

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