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Protect Public Lands, Preserve Washington's Economy

Posted by Jonathan Guzzo at Dec 10, 2012 11:15 AM |
A new report from Headwaters Economics focuses on the critical role that the West's public lands base plays in supporting Washington's economy. The report provides new evidence that outdoor recreation opportunities play an important role in job growth. In short, Washington's incredible recreation opportunities make it a great place to live and work.
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.

Headwaters Economics 2012 Report Land Jobs Graphic
Percent Change in Employment,Non-Metro West, 1970-2010. Source: headwaterseconomics.org

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:

  • 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

    From the Outdoor Industry Association's (OIA) work to quantify the economic benefits of outdoor recreation, to this report, there has been a groundswell of data emerging on this topic.

    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.

    More information

    > Read the full report online.

    > Check out Headwaters Economics interactive graphics for Washington state.

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    "Protected" Land / Economy

    Posted by HunterConservationist at Dec 18, 2012 11:30 AM
    This "study" has all the signs of the correlation/causation error.

    If WTA wants to help critical habitat, the focus needs to shift from mountainous forest land to river bottoms and costal tidelands. WA doesn't need another USFS forest land to Wilderness conversion. Too much of our forests have become inaccessible due to the elimination of roads and types of access.

    Land Management designations and Economics

    Posted by Jonathan Guzzo at Dec 18, 2012 11:30 AM
    HunterConservationist,

    Thanks for your thoughts. What sold me was the comments from the Chambers and business leaders included in the report. These are not typically woolly-headed thinkers, and if their experience shows that their bottom line and staff recruitment and retention are aided by natural amenities, I put a lot of value in that.

    I agree with you that the real bang for habitat conservation buck lies in the forested lowlands, which is why conservation groups are targeting those areas for a range of protections, from wilderness designation to conservation easements. And I completely agree with you that we should balance our efforts to conserve wild landscapes with the human need for access. I think we can do that with a well-thought-out quiver of land management designations, including wilderness.

    Thanks again for your perceptive and thoughtful comment.

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