Headwaters Economics study shows Western county income increase explained by protected lands

Bryce Canyon NP - Thors Hammer Photo by Ray Mathis/NPS

Bryce Canyon NP – Thors Hammer
Photo by Ray Mathis/NPS

Utilizing a statistical model, Headwaters Economics created an interactive map to show the amount of per capita income explained by protected federal lands for each county in the non-metropolitan western U.S.

For example, in Gallatin County, Montana $2,655 of the per capita income (7% of total PCI) can be explained by the presence of protected public lands. Or, in Gunnison County, Colorado, $5,203 of the per capita income (15% of total PCI) can be explained by the presence of protected public lands.

The new interactive map and explanation take into account each county’s characteristics and shows an estimated amount of per capita income that can explained by protected federal lands for each non-metropolitan county.

This new county-specific analysis builds on earlier work (West Is Best) by Headwaters Economics that looked at the U.S. West’s 286 non-metro counties as a region, and found a meaningful relationship between the amount of protected public land and higher per capita income levels in 2010. According to this analysis, the effect protected public lands have on per capita income can be most easily described in this way: on average, western non-metro counties have a per capita income that is $436 higher for every 10,000 acres of protected public lands within their boundaries.

“This analysis provides county-level details on how protected federal lands are benefiting westerners and specifically per capita income. Our earlier research found that, on average, western non-metro counties have a per capita income that is $436 higher for every 10,000 acres of protected federal lands within their boundaries. Today’s analysis gives businesses, local officials, and community leaders a better understanding of one way that protected federal lands provide their county with a competitive and economic advantage.”

–Ray Rasker, PhD, Executive Director, Headwaters Economics

Headwaters Economics is a non-profit economic research group based in Bozeman, Montana that specializes in community and economic development.

More study resources:

Interactive map with County details
Study explanation and Interpretation
West is Best Report

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