Magazine article American Forests

Touring to Economic Health

Magazine article American Forests

Touring to Economic Health

Article excerpt

Rethinking Tourism Project, a two-yearold nonprofit organization with a mission of educating and networking indigenous peoples. "Ask yourself, Who has a stake in the operation? Who is doing the selling? Are they simply selling the outdoors or are they selling something that's about preservation? . . . Ecotourism must be sustainable over the long term."

Fay Knox, a community activist and ecotourism promoter in Arkansas, defines ecotourism as a mixture of conservation and community involvement. "You can have environmentally sensitive tours booked outside of a region, but the host community doesn't receive any of the benefits," she says. "People who live in the communities have to buy into the idea."

Knox knows from personal experience. She lives in northwestern Arkansas' Newton County, an area in the heart of the majestic Ozark Mountains. With an average income of only $10,406, almost 30 percent of Newton County's population falls below the federal poverty line. When Congress in 1972 declared the Buffalo River, which runs through this knowledge to promote the economy.

"People were saying, `You all are crazy! You don't want to build an industrial park or an airport?" recalls Knox. "We said, `No. We have some beautiful things here. We want to take care of our natural resources: So we worked on getting more community approval for the project."

In part that meant convincing people that ecotourism was a worthwhile financial investment, so Knox and NCRC embarked on a pilot project. …

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