Department of the Interior reports economic impact in R.I.

PROVIDENCE – The U.S. Department of the Interior supported 774 jobs and had an economic output of $62.3 million in Rhode Island fiscal 2018, the department reported Tuesday.

Nationwide, the department had a total economic output of $315 billion and supported 1.8 million jobs during the fiscal year. Those numbers were up from $254 billion and 1.6 million jobs in fiscal 2017, the department reported.

In Rhode Island, the department’s economic impact in fiscal 2018 broke down as follows: activities in Rhode Island on department-managed lands supported 329 jobs and $22.4 million in recreational activities; 227 jobs and $30.5 million from energy and mineral development; and 118 jobs and $9.4 million from major grants and payments.

Responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources nationwide, the department’s impact in Rhode Island was relatively smaller compared to the leading states.

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They were Texas with 113,000 jobs supported and $24 billion in economic impact; Wyoming with 88,000 jobs and $21 billion in economic impact; and New Mexico with 80,000 jobs supported and $21 billion economic impact.

“The Department of Interior is entrusted with managing a wide variety of activities on public lands that support nearly two million jobs and generate $315 billion in economic impact, benefiting local and state economics,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

“Today’s report highlights the significant contribution our public lands make in our economy, which continues to grow under President Trump’s leadership,” Bernhardt said.

The department under Trump has been beset with allegations of conflicts of interest and criticism that it has been catering to commercial interests.

The department consists of federal agencies such as the National Parks Service and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. It oversees about 500 million acres of federal land and 1.5 billion acres offshore.

Bernhardt, a former oil industry lobbyist, was the department’s deputy under former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who resigned early this year amid a federal investigation into his expenditures.

During Zinke’s tenure, the department opened more federal lands for oil, gas, and mineral exploration and extraction.

Currently, inaction by the department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has cast uncertainty over plans for offshore wind energy turbine projects off the coast of Cape Cod and Rhode Island.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com.

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