Across the Mountain West, the majority of our land mass is publicly owned. A new mapping project by Headwaters Economics provides county-level data that can help you understand what that means.
Headwaters researchers used data from the U.S. Geological Survey to include details not just about federal public lands, but also about state, county and tribal lands. The Institute found that counties with more public lands have stronger economies than their peers. That means if you live in a small town next to a national park, you’re more likely to have a job and to make more money than someone in a small town with no park. That is especially true in rural areas.
“It does help people understand the economic value of public lands, not for just extraction ... but for all sorts of things — the general economy, people want to live close to those public lands,” says John Freemuth, who runs the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, and who studies land policy and management.
Headwaters also found that areas with protected public lands like national parks and wilderness areas tend to attract new residents for quality of life reasons.
Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.
Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.