Jobs In Rural Western Counties With More Than 30% Protected Public Lands Increased 300% Over Last 40 Years

by Jessica Goad

A report released yesterday by consulting firm Headwaters Economics continues to shed light on the economic importance of protected public lands to local economies in the American West.

It finds that there were more than four times as many jobs created in non-metro counties with protected public lands compared to those without. This data contradicts the ideological rhetoric of many Republicans seeking to throw open more federal acres to mining and drilling.

As the report states, over 40 years:

Western non-metro counties with more than 30% of lands federally protected increased jobs by 344%.

The chart below shows that from 1970 to 2009 (the most recent data available), the more protected public lands (national parks, national monuments, wilderness areas, etc.) that were in a rural county, the more jobs created.  This compares to only an 80% increase for counties with no protected federally-managed places at all.

In part, this trend occurred because land conservation creates a wide variety of jobs.  In 2010, recreation and tourism spurred 388,000 jobs on Interior Department-managed lands and 224,000 in and around national forests. Echoing these facts, a group of 104 economists sent a letter to the president in November asking him to create jobs by protecting more special places for recreation.

This latest data contradicts the mantra of many western Republican lawmakers, who contend that protected public lands are “locked up” by the government and have no value.  For example, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands, has stated:

Contrary to claims by the administration and others, the designation of national monuments and wilderness are not a boon to local economies, but rather a detriment in most scenarios.

That is just plain wrong.

Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project.

One Response to Jobs In Rural Western Counties With More Than 30% Protected Public Lands Increased 300% Over Last 40 Years

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Extractive industries all pillage the land and move on. Deserted logging towns along the clearcut Oregon and Washington coasts are still waiting for the “sustainable forestry” myth to bear fruit, as mills have closed from lack of timber, and the locals spiral into a world of food stamps and beer. Meanwhile, towns adjacent to Olympic National Park and Redwood National Park are doing fine. Loggers are so relentless that the big Green groups have pretty much given up fighting them.

    Coal, gas, and uranium operators are just as bad. They deplete the resource and leave poisoned land behind, which they are rarely required to clean up. Typically they will use shell companies, so there is nobody left to be held responsible.