Tourism and Hunting in the Big Bend Region: Visitors are a vital resource that help shape the uniqueness of the region
The values that locals cherish about the Big Bend region of Texas are the same values that draw people to visit this area. Hundreds of thousands of tourists travel to the tiny towns of West Texas each year, supporting numerous local businesses, which employ many West Texas residents. In fact, tourism has become a primary economic driver for the Big Bend region.
Each year, the region generates millions of dollars from tourists alone. Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, The National Park Service found that Big Bend National Park brought in 394,000 visitors, which contributed $37.7 million dollars in economic output in the communities that surround the park (i.e., gas, groceries, hotels, restaurants, retail, etc.).
Tourism and hunting is one of the shared conservation values of the Respect Big Bend coalition, identified by the Trans-Pecos Stakeholder Advisory Group. Members of this group include landowners, conservation partners and community members from the Big Bend region counties of Brewster, Jeff Davis and Presidio.
Some people are drawn to the region because of the slow-paced, history-filled, charming towns. The communities in Far West Texas are a mixture of history and progress resulting in the eclectic West Texas that people travel hundreds of miles to experience. With several superb coffee shops, a historic hotel in each tiny town, excellent food trucks, several astounding restaurants and shops and art galleries galore, it’s easy to stay occupied during your stay.
But the allure of the historic tiny towns is only half of the draw to the region. The majority of people visit the Big Bend region for the great outdoors. With viewsheds, vistas, dark skies, grasslands, rivers and springs, sky islands and birding opportunities, it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise. People enjoy spending multiple days visiting Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Davis Mountains State Park and The Nature Conservancy properties. In these secluded areas, many people participate in organized trips, including birding tours, herpetological society gatherings and trail hiking groups, to name a few, all of which bring tourism dollars into the region.
This region also brings people specifically for the exciting events! Each year, communities in the Big Bend region host eclectic, fun, adventurous gatherings that immerse visitors into the unique culture and experience that is West Texas. Some of the notable gatherings in the Big Bend region include:
Chinati Weekend in Marfa
Lonestar Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine
Artwalk in Alpine and Marfa
Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration in Fort Davis
Viva Big Bend in Alpine, Marathon, Marfa, Terlingua and Fort Davis
Terlingua Chili Cookoff in Terlingua
Marfa Lights Festival in Marfa
Another aspect of outdoor enjoyment that attracts people to the Big Bend region is hunting in West Texas. Big game species, such as native mule deer and pronghorn, and exotic species such as aoudad, bring hunters to the area each year. Other game species, including scaled quail, mourning dove and waterfowl can be hunted on public lands, such as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Management Areas, attracting hunters to the region several times a year.
Hunting is not only a source of revenue and an enjoyable hobby for many West Texas residents, it is also a tool for conservation used to maintain healthy, balanced populations of wildlife that the region can support. Without hunting, the cherished West Texas wildlife populations would quickly grow beyond what the landscapes can withstand, putting individuals at risk of starvation and disease and landscapes at risk of being overrun and eventually destroyed.
Visiting hunters not only help manage these populations of wildlife, but they also provide an additional source of income for many private landowners and local communities. In 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified that Texas drew over 85,000 non-resident hunters, bringing in over $11 million from licenses, tags, permits, and stamps. This does not include in-state travel expenses for these out-of-state hunters and money spent in local communities during their stay. Across the region, many local outfitters bring thousands of hunters from across the world to hunt on West Texas private properties, leading to more people and revenue in our local communities.
Read more about the latest Respect Big Bend report here, https://respectbigbend.org/final-report
The Respect Big Bend coalition was launched by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, and is sponsored in part by the Permian Basin Area Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, and the Still Water Foundation. Find out more about the project at RespectBigBend.org.