WASHINGTON (AP) - Visitors to national wildlife refuges - like the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman -  generate more than $2 billion a year in economic activity, helping to employ more than 35,000 people and generating about $343 million in local, state and federal taxes.

That's according to a new government report that analyzes the economic role of the nation's 561 wildlife refuges. The report by the Fish and Wildlife Service says wildlife refuges drew 46.5 million visits in 2011, with three of every four visitors coming from outside the local area.

Recreational activities such as birding, hiking and picnicking accounted for nearly 75 percent of total expenditures, while fishing and hunting accounted for about 28 percent of expenditures.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was expected to release the report Tuesday during a visit to a wildlife refuge in Minnesota.

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