By Jessica Goad – Center for American Progress/Action Fund
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.