National monuments can boost the economy in the American West

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A study by Resources for the Future (RFF) researchers, to be published in Science Advances, shows that national monuments have had mostly positive effects on local economies in the American West.

Study authors Margaret Walls, Patrick Lee, and Matthew Ashenfarb highlighted the following key findings:

  • After the monuments were designated, the number of nearby business establishments and jobs increased by an average of 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively, compared to "control" areas.
  • The boost in businesses and jobs was detected in several service industries, including and financial services, as well as the construction industry.
  • Natural resource industries that rely on public lands—mining, forestry, and livestock grazing—showed no effect, positive or negative, from the designations. Average wage incomes in areas near monuments were also unaffected.
  • Monument detractors often argue that protecting public lands harms by restricting extractive industries and by replacing high-income jobs with low-income ones. The study finds strong evidence to suggest otherwise.

The study examined 14 monuments—protected public lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or objects of historic or scientific interest—established in the eight Mountain West states since 1990. Using a unique set of data and state-of-the-art , the authors determined how the designations affected nearby jobs, wage income, businesses, and industries. A new article in Resources magazine provides an accessible overview of the study and findings.

In this audio clip, Margaret Walls discusses the national dataset and methods the authors used for their forthcoming research article about the local economic impacts of establishing a national monument in the American West. Credit: Margaret Walls, Matthew Ashenfarb, and Patrick Lee
In this audio clip, Margaret Walls refers to the original intent and purpose of establishing national monuments, per the Antiquities Act of 1906, and the critical need to provide resources to the land management agencies that maintain national monuments. Credit: Margaret Walls, Matthew Ashenfarb, and Patrick Lee

"Rural communities in the U.S. are changing and their economies transitioning away from a reliance on resource-dependent industries," the authors state. "Our results suggest that protecting some of these public lands as national monuments does not exacerbate these trends, but rather could even be reversing them and creating a new set of economic forces oriented around the historic, cultural, and scenic amenities these provide."

The study, titled "National Monuments and Economic Growth in the American West," will be published in Science Advances today.

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More information: M.A. Walls el al., "National monuments and economic growth in the American West," Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay8523 ,
Journal information: Science Advances

Provided by Resources for the Future (RFF)
Citation: National monuments can boost the economy in the American West (2020, March 18) retrieved 29 March 2020 from
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