Protect Public Lands, Preserve Washington's Economy
The economics of protected public lands: workers want to live where they can enjoy outdoor recreation and natural landscapes. Teanaway Ridge, Photo by Melinda Hord.
A new report from Headwaters Economics (a non-partisan economic research group), titled West is Best: Protected Public Lands Promote Jobs and Higher Incomes focuses on the critical role that the West's public lands base plays in supporting Washington's economy.
The report provides new evidence for something WTA has known for years: outdoor recreation opportunities play an important role in population and job growth.
Protected federal lands help create jobs
One of the report's most striking findings is that counties containing more than 30% federally protected lands saw job growth of 345 percent from 1970-2010, while those with 0 percent of their landscapes in federal protection saw only 83 percent growth.
Job growth percentage grows steadily as protected land percentages move from 0 to 30 percent. Per capita income is also $6,540 higher in counties with 150,000 acres of protected land compared to counties with no protected land.
Protected public lands attract companies and workers
The report also found that protected public lands are key to attracting companies, entrepreneurs and workers. In short, Washington's incredible recreation opportunities make it a great place to live and work. In the executive summary, Headwaters Economics says it found:
Protect Public Lands
- Entrepreneurs and talented workers are choosing to work where they can enjoy outdoor recreation and natural landscapes.
- Increasingly, chambers of commerce and economic development associations in every western state are using the region’s national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands as a tool to lure companies to relocate.
- High-wage services industries also are using the West’s national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands as a tool to recruit and retain innovative, high-performing talent.
Data continues to underscore importance of public lands to the economy
These reports should be a signal to elected officials that public lands are an economic driver and that investments in the places that we all love yield huge returns.