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Report: Conserving Lands and Prosperity

Blue River. Image courtesy John Gale

The report “Conserving Lands and Prosperity” explores the benefits of conserving public lands in the Rocky Mountain West by looking at the relationship between land use and economic growth in seven states  — Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. The findings that rural counties with higher percentages of public lands managed for conservation and recreation have experienced more job and population growth and report higher per capita incomes show the need to balance conservation and responsible development of public lands.

Some of the key findings:

From 1969 to 2009, the top 50 counties with the highest percentage of land managed for conservation had higher per capita income growth rates (nearly 1100 percent) compared to those 50 counties with higher percentages of land managed for resource development (approximately 970 percent).

In 2009, the average per capita income in the top 50 counties where public lands were managed for conservation and recreation was about $38,000. It was approximately $30,000 in the top 50 counties where public lands were intensively managed for natural resource extraction.

The top 50 counties with lands managed for conservation and recreation recorded a 269 percent growth in jobs from 1969 to 2000. The top 50 counties with lands managed for natural resource development saw employment increase 76 percent increase in the same time period.

Conclusions:

Western communities need the energy and materials provided by logging, mining and oil and gas drilling. Residents and tourists also want the quality of life and economic benefits provided by the region’s fish, wildlife, scenic landscapes and outdoor recreation. This report’s findings underscore the prudence of balancing the use of public lands between responsible development and conservation of the New West’s version of riches – protected watersheds, viable wildlife and fish populations, clean air and places to get away from crowds, roads and noise.

Prev: Seeking a Proper Balance on our Public Lands Next: Conserving Lands and Prosperity: Cody, Wyo., A Case Study

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