Best of the West: National Parks’ big economic impact, Lake Tahoe filling up, cleanup crews in space

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting May 22, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

We all know what National Parks mean to us: nature at its finest, a place to escape. If that was all they accomplished, that would be enough. But National Parks also have a significant economic impact nationally and in the West.

How big? A new interactive resource created by Headwaters Economics reveals that total park attendance in 2016 exceeded 328 million, generating more than $18 billion in visitor spending and creating nearly 270,000 jobs. Yellowstone National Park alone saw 4.2 million visitors spend $525 million in 2016 and support 8,156 jobs. See a report for every park.

Western Governors have expressed their support for the National Parks System, which includes more than 40 parks in western states, by passing the resolution, National Parks and the West.

To the Brim: Nearly 72 billion gallons have flowed into Lake Tahoe since April; it is expected that the lake will fill to capacity for the first time in 11 years. Snowmelt is also responsible for rising waters in California’s Central Valley, where the fifth recorded drowning in two months occurred over the weekend. The recent hailstorm that hit Denver is officially the costliest on record for the state of Colorado: $1.4 billion in damages and an estimated 200,000 auto and homeowner insurance claims.

Fire Season Reading: Author Gary Ferguson's new book, Land on Fire, tracks the rise of western “megafires” (those that burn more than 100,000 acres). The book examines why wildfires have increased in size and intensity over the past two decades, and how firefighters are adapting. Western Governors continue to advocate for an end to “fire borrowing,” a budgetary practice that occurs when federal agencies divert funds from forest health and fire prevention programs to fight wildfires.

Ladies Next: Deep Springs College, a 100-year old school in California built upon rigorous academics and manual labor, is on the verge of opening admission to female students. A recent court decision will allow women to be attend the “finishing school for intellectual cowboys” next year.

Cleanup crews in space: Researchers at Aerospace Corp. in California and Texas A&M University in Texas are working on “space garbage trucks” to collect debris orbiting the earth and creating obstacles for spacecraft. Read how scientists are cleaning up the mess.

ATTEND WGA'S ANNUAL MEETINGInterior Secretary Ryan Zinke, influential pollster Frank Luntz and world renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker will be keynote speakers at the 2017 WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock June 26-28 in Whitefish, Montana. (See Agenda, Register)

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


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