The 4.1 million people who visited Yellowstone National Park last year spent nearly $500 million in communities near the park, according to a new National Park Service report.

"Yellowstone welcomes people from across the country and around the world who contribute significantly to the local economies in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho," Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a news release.

"The economic benefits our neighbors enjoy are a direct result of preserving Yellowstone’s abundant wildlife, spectacular thermal features, and dramatic scenery," Wenk said. "As we look to the future, preservation has to be the key value we consider as we address increasing visitation. Protecting the park also protects the regional tourism economy."

Yellowstone tourists spent $498.8 million in nearby communities, which supported 7,354 jobs with a cumulative benefit to the area economy of $629.6 million, according to the report.

The peer-reviewed report was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.

Nationwide, 330 million park visitors directly spent $18.2 billion within 60 miles of a national park. That supported 306,000 jobs, with 255,900 of those in gateway communities.

The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion, according to the report.

Of that total, the lodging sector generated $5.5 billion to gateway communities with 49,000 jobs. The restaurant sector came in second with $3.7 billion to gateway communities with 60,500 jobs.

Most park visitor spending was for lodging and camping at 32.9 percent, followed by food and beverages at 27.5 percent, fuel at 12.1 percent, souvenirs and other expenses at 10 percent, admissions and fees at 10 percent, and local transportation at 7.5 percent, according to the report

Authors Thomas and Koontz created an interactive tool that enables users to explore visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data.

Check the National Park Service’s webpages about WyomingMontana, and Idaho to see how the Agency works with communities in these states to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.

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