The economic importance of national monuments to local communities

New data from Headwaters Economics

“In 2011 and again this year, Headwaters Economics analyzed the economies surrounding the 17 national monuments in the eleven western continental states that are larger than 10,000 acres and were created between 1982 and 2011. This sample avoids smaller monuments with little potential to have an impact on local economies, and allowed us to analyze economic indicators before and after designation using reliable measures of economic performance.  (The updated research includes both new summary and a fresh interactive map.

The new 2014 analysis examines more recent performance, including recovery from the great recession.”

“Across the board, trends in important economic indicators either continued or improved in each of the regions surrounding the 17 national monuments studied. Looking at per capita income, a widely accepted measure of prosperity, the data show that this measurement increased for the studied counties adjacent to every national monument in the years following establishment. This rise in personal wealth is significant, particularly in rural areas where average earnings per job are often declining.”

“The latest review shows again that all of the regional economies adjacent to the studied national monuments experienced growth following a monument’s designation. Nearby national monuments help communities to diversify economically while increasing quality of life and recreational opportunities that assist communities to become more attractive for new residents, businesses, and investment.”

Some highlights from the Headwaters Economics update:

“The western economy has changed significantly in recent decades. Services industries that employ a wide range of people—from doctors and engineers to teachers and accountants—have driven economic growth and now make up the large majority of jobs, even in rural areas. At the same time, non-labor income, which consists largely of investment and retirement income, is the fastest source of new personal income in the region. The results of this study correspond to related research that shows how protecting public lands can assist western communities working to promote a more robust economic future:

  • Protected lands help create jobs. Western non-metropolitan counties with more than 30 percent of the county’s land base in federal protected status such as national parks, monuments, wilderness, and other similar designations increased jobs at four times the rate of similar counties with no protected federal public lands (345% compared to 83% during the last 40 years.)
  • These lands also increase incomes. In 2010, per capita income in western non-metropolitan counties with 100,000 acres of protected public lands was on average $4,360 higher than per capita income in similar counties with no protected public lands.  Protected natural amenities—such as pristine scenery and wildlife—help sustain property values and attract new investment.
  • Outdoor recreation is important to western economies. In New Mexico, for example, the Outdoor Industry Foundation reports that active outdoor recreation contributes $6.1 billion annually to the state’s economy, supporting 68,400 jobs. (Note: Another OIA study from 2012 indicates that outdoor recreation industry in Colorado generated $13.2B in consumer spending, 125,000 direct Colorado jobs, $4.2B in wages and salaries and $994M in state and local tax revenue)
  • Services jobs are increasingly mobile, and many entrepreneurs locate their businesses in areas with a high quality of life. Conserving lands, while also creating a new visibility for them through protective designations, helps safeguard and highlight the amenities that attract people and business.
  • For many seniors and soon-to-be retirees, protected public lands and recreation provide important aspects of a high quality of life. Non-labor sources of income already represent more than a third of all personal income in the West—and will grow as the Baby Boomer generation retires.”

Visit Headwaters Economics for more

Chimney Rock National Monument

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association

Local Update

The Western Conservation Foundation commissioned an economic impact baseline study from Region 9 EDD in late 2013, but  decided not to release the data based on a low baseline of responses. The good news is that they would like to continue the survey and study for the next few years and are considering a sizeable grant to CRIA towards much needed marketing and advertising money to promote increased tourism.  There is much to be put in place to make a significant economic impact in this region and county. CRIA is trying to make some of that happen with the local governments and forest service.

 

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