|Gov. Heineman: The Importance of Ecotourism|
Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
Last week, I was pleased host Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado as we met to discuss common efforts and issues related to ecotourism and economic development. In addition to discussing tourism efforts, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to view the world-renowned migration of the sandhill cranes, a significant ecotourism attraction in Nebraska.
From mid-February to mid-April each year, visitors to the Platte River valley in south-central Nebraska can enjoy the migration of 90 percent of the world's sandhill cranes. Our location along the central flyway provides wildlife watchers the opportunity to experience the annual migration of 500,000 Sandhill cranes as they stop along a 40 mile stretch of the Platte River en route to their summer breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.
The abundance of rivers and waterways in our state create excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation. Our amazing state parks also play a vital role in attracting visitors. Nebraska offers a range of landscapes from pine-covered bluffs in the northwest to the rolling Sandhills and prairie grasslands of central Nebraska. There are unique and picturesque rock formations in western Nebraska, scenic river communities along the Missouri River and acres of wide open range and pastureland in between.
Ecotourism is vital in Nebraska where 97 percent of the land is privately owned. Forging partnerships with private land owners are critical in providing access to our beautiful landscapes and bountiful hunting opportunities.
According to statistics gathered by the Nebraska Division of Tourism and Travel in the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraskans and visitors to Nebraska together made more than 19 million trips in the state in 2010 to destinations 100 miles or more away from home. Travelers spent nearly $4 billion in Nebraska during 2010 on day trips more than 100 miles away and trips with overnight stays. Annual spending on these trips has increased by $2.3 billion since 1990. Jobs attributable to travel in Nebraska totaled more than 45,000 in 2010. For trips by visitors, the leading states of origin were Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Missouri and South Dakota.
Together with hunting, fishing, birding, camping, hiking, and biking, opportunities for outdoor recreation are some of the fastest growing segments of our tourism industry. Growth in all these areas is helping to make Nebraska a tourism destination. In addition, visitors experience all the great things Nebraska has to offer, and then spread the word to friends and family members. I look forward to continued growth in ecotourism across our state.