Feds cut estimated economic worth of recreation in national forests

During the Clinton administration, the U.S. Forest Service estimated that by the year 2000, recreation in national forests would contribute about $111 billion a year to the American economy. Now the Bush administration has slashed that estimate by a whopping $100 billion for 2002, down to $11 billion. According to agency officials, Clinton-era estimates of 800 million visits a year to national forests were inflated — instead, they say 2002 saw about 200 million visits. Conservationists were nonplussed, noting that in 2001 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated birders and wildlife watchers alone spend $38 billion yearly on equipment and travel. Some fear the feds are gearing their analysis to justify more mining and logging in national forests. “Would I expect anything different from the Bush administration?” asked the Wilderness Society’s Michael Francis. “No. They will cook the books for whatever they want.”