National Monuments Benefit Local Economies


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    National Monuments Benefit Local Economies

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    Recently published research indicates that national monument designation may not deserve the label of economic boondoggle with which it’s been stamped … national monuments in the Mountain West region actually had a net positive effect on local economies, according to the journal Science Advances and work from Paul Jakus, IORT Fellow and professor of environmental economics and his team.

    The research in Science Advances found that, on average, the number of people employed in areas immediately adjacent to national monuments was about nine percent higher than comparable places with no monument. Work done by Jakus on ten national monuments focused on changes in county level per capita income, where they found no differences in economic trends over time—counties with monuments had the same trend as counties without monuments.

    In contrast, the recently published research used finer resolution longitudinal data to show a greater number of businesses and jobs in areas around the monuments by slowing (or reversing) the rate at which firms went out of business. The new study showed no change in average wage income or the net job growth rate. They also found no effect on the natural resource industries that rely on public lands and that detractors claim are hurt by monuments—namely, mining, forestry, and livestock grazing.

    In the western U.S., more than half of all land is federally owned and managed for “multiple uses,” mostly by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. These agencies are tasked with balancing uses such as recreation, energy production, livestock grazing, and the protection of cultural and historic resources. It isn’t an easy job, especially when national monuments are added to the blend.

    Designated by presidential proclamation, national monuments have long been a source of debate and conflict. They are nominated to protect historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. Much of the debate over national monuments and other protected lands revolves around their impacts on local economies.

    “We now have three studies conducted by two different research teams covering 21 national monuments,” said Jakus. “This research hasn’t found any evidence that national monument designation causes general economic hardship in local communities,” he said. “That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen in a specific area, under specific circumstances. But in general, we can be confident that economic damage to a community is unlikely.”

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