Wolves are bringing tourists and money to Montana

This is based on the work of University of Montana economist John Duffield.

Wolf tourism in Yellowstone region. Wolves are bringing tourists and money to Montana.

Update: Here is Duffield’s original paper in the Jan. 2008 issue of Yellowstone Science.








  1. vicki Avatar

    I’m quite sure that ranchers are enjoying the benefits of the tax dollars generated by the woves. I am equally as sure that they’ll never acknowledge that. It is an economic certainty that wolves will continue to generate revenue in the Yellowstone area. I am also certain that the people who come to see wolves, wouldn’t come to see cattle.
    It’s time to use most of the monies raised through taxation on these tourists should be allocated toward conservation, and land purchases to strengthen the range of these animals.

  2. vicki Avatar


  3. Chuck Avatar

    You would think these good ole boys here in Idaho would get a clue of the monies that are spent and change their way of thinking.

  4. SAP Avatar

    Vicki – Montana has no state sales tax. We do have a lodging tax (a total of 7% on lodging price), so Montanans do see some revenue from tourists, some of whom are coming to see wolves. Most of the lodging tax goes back into tourism promotion (and promoting the film industry), evidently. See this PDF:


    Montana law also allows “resort” towns with populations under 5,500 to self-impose a resort tax. I don’t know which towns have it — West Yellowstone, Whitefish, Big Sky, Virginia City, and Red Lodge definitely have it. Those revenues stay in those communities, where they pay for infrastructure and/or offset property taxes.

    So, presently there is really no way that the average Montanan gets direct revenue benefits from taxes on tourists.

    Tourism definitely creates jobs, and those workers pay income tax and they buy stuff, so it has that kind of effect, but it’s not like wolf watchers in Lamar Valley are directly improving the well-being of someone in White Sulphur.

    Nor, unfortunately, does the wolf-watchers’ spending contribute anything directly to conservation programs. It’s too bad. I hope Mack Bray has some good ideas for changing this situation, because the next thing we’ll hear is how the guy who buys an $19 wolf tag is “paying” for wolf conservation.

    In wild flights of fancy, I let myself believe that we could directly tap YNP gate fees and put a percentage (even as little as five percent would be huge!) into wolf conservation/coexistence programs outside the park.

    But when I think of what it would take to make that happen, my head hurts.

  5. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    In Idaho the fish and game commission, which is in charge of all wildlife in the state, gets its money from license and tag fees and federal tax money from sales of guns, ammuniton and fishing gear. The fish and game commission gets NO money from Idaho’s general fund that comes from sales and income taxes levied by the state.
    That is in contrast to the Idaho Sheep Commission (Woolgrowers) who get some funding from the states general fund. They (the woolgrowers)use this money to to promote domestic sheep grazing on public lands and to advocate killing wolves and removing bighorns. The executive director of the Idaho Sheep Commission (Stan Boyd) was appointed by the Idaho legislature to co-chair the Idaho Wolf Plan. He also led the charge to have the fish and game shoot bighorns who wander near domestic sheep as authorized in the Idaho Bighorn Plan.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I recently posted an article, which was not read by many (I should have written a more inflammatory headline I guess) where they are trying to do the same thing with these awful elk farms.

    Anyway, here it is again.

    Idaho elk ranchers push new “cervidae council” bill to punish Democrats and protect elk farms.

  7. Brian Ertz Avatar

    these councils are a breach of the public trust (livestock – sheep, cattle, dairy) … my god, they all lead back to the same people – the lobbyists – lining their own pockets and looting the public ~ all in front of everybody.

  8. Concerned Avatar

    I have seen similar studies in the past, that claim about the same amount of revenue in the surrounding towns, but I have not seen anyone of these studies show how they derived their numbers, and NO, I am not being negative, but based on pure observation in the communities surrounding the park, I don’t see the type of growth yo would expect with an influx of these types of numbers.

    I would like to see an actually study done on how many new businesses have sprung up as well as how many have went under since the re-introduction, how many people would still come to the park if there were no wolves, and how many only come because of the wolf. I was at Slough Creek a couple of years ago, and was asked a few questions, then a questioner was mailed to me, with about 20 questions on it about why I visit the park, but unfortunately I never saw the results of that published by any agency, or organization.

    I would be interested in seeing an in depth study done to really ascertain this type of information, and again, not because I am negative to the wolf program at all, but would really like to get a better handle on how the wolves have really effected the economic well being of the various communities. Perhaps they could come up with a program to put questioners in the hotel/motel rooms that people could fill out and leave at the front desk or the campground hosts could give them out with the receipt when you camp.

    Just throwing some ideas around here..

  9. vicki Avatar

    Maybe there should be a tax then. We have taxes on everything else. Perhaps the tax could be seasonal? Or maybe they could make a tax for all people who used a credit-card? If the towns didn’t accept out of state checks, that would limit the tax to tourists for the most part. I’d go once or twice a year even if it cost me another 1 or two percent. But I’d only want to pay it if I knew where the funds would go, and approved of the use.
    I spend a hefty chunk of change each summer, when I take numerous children.(My spouse too, but he could be counted as the earlier!) I average about 125 dollars per person just in souvenirs. I usually have about 9 people with me. That adds up if you figured how much everyone lese spends too.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    How the study was done is a good question.

    I think Professor Duffield’s actual paper might be available. I’ll see if I can get a copy.

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Note to Concerned,

    I just put up Duffield’s original article as an update to this post. It is in the Jan 2008 issue of Yellowstone Science (not on-line yet).

  12. Concerned Avatar

    Thank you Ralph,

    That does shed light on somethings.

  13. Monty Avatar

    Yellowstone & Teton NP’s are the “economic engine” for this region. I have been visiting Yellowstone for 50 years & I drive thru the National Forests to get to the park. The parks have a different ambience & offer a greater chance for viewing wildlife. The “Yellowstone experience” is the sum of all of it’s “wildlife parts”. Remove the grizzly & wolf & the experience would be much demenished. I believe that the economic effect of the mega predators is much greater than indicated. In the lower 48, Yellowstone stands heads & shoulders above all other areas because of the visibility & abundance of these creatures.

  14. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    I think this study is indeed highly interesting, being the first one I have seen so far directly linking certain species with its value in tourism and the economy of the communities. I´ve yet to read (and understand) it in depth, but from a first revew I think what it underestimates is the economic impact of tourism from overseas. Especially Yellowstone being a highly popular – if not so easy to reach – destination for wildlife lovers from all over Europe. Monty puts it in the correct perspective above: “The Yellowstone experience is the sum of all of its wildlife parts. Yes it is! My wife and me would have come for the bears and bison alone with the wolves being the bonus. Or the other way round: Without wolves we would still visit every other year. But without all the animals? A one time only visit for the thermal features would surely be enough. From those overseas tourists however not only the economy of the local communities benefits (and when you walk the communities surrounding YNP you quickly notice that they heavily depend on tourism – all of them, including Cody :-)). It starts much earlier with often already the money for the flight tickets going to a US airline.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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