NPS Photo | Neal Herbert

The Department of the Interior announced today that visitor spending in communities near national parks in 2017 resulted in a $35.8 billion boon to the nation’s economy, and supported 306,000 jobs.

That’s up nearly a billion from 2016, according to the annual National Park Service report. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pointed to the need to close the gaping maintinence backlog, saying that the economic impact supports the need.

“Parks are priceless not only for their intrinsic natural beauty and historical significance, but also for the economic benefits they provide to communities across the country,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “The investments we make in our national parks protect cherished places while promoting community and economic development.”

The lodging sector received the largest benefit with $5.5 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 49,000 jobs. The restaurant sector followed, with $3.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 60,500 jobs.

According to the report, park visitor spending was split between lodging/camping (32.9 percent), food and beverages (27.5 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.0 percent), and local transportation (7.5 percent). “National parks connect us with nature and help tell America’s story,” said Dan Smith, Deputy Director of the National Park Service. “They are also a vital part of our nation’s economy, drawing hundreds of millions of visitors every year who fill hotels and restaurants, hire outfitters and rely on other local businesses that help drive a vibrant tourism and outdoor recreation industry.”

The peer-reviewed report was prepared by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. It includes information by parks and by states on visitor spending, the number of jobs supported by visitor spending and other statistics. National Park visitation grew by 7.7 percent from 2015 to 2017.