News

Media coverage of research by Headwaters Economics.

“Coal Royalty Reform Can Help Build Resilient Communities”

Billings Gazette

The effective royalty rate on coal — measured against market prices — is 4.9 percent, well short of statutory rates (12.5 percent and 8 percent on surface and underground coal), and lower than the effective rate on natural gas (9.7 percent), according to our research at Headwaters Economics

In addition, the BLM should create a natural resources trust fund for the benefit of communities near public lands. We estimate BLM could build up a fund of more than $8 billion over 20 years that can fund infrastructure, schools, and economic development activities in communities exposed to the boom and bust dynamics of fossil fuel extraction.

“Retirees: A Growing Economic Force in the West”

The Hill

This Monday the White House will hold its Conference on Aging. While much of the gathering concentrates on the importance of healthcare and retirement security, older Americans also are having a significant economic impact on communities across the U.S. West…

Research by Headwaters Economics conducted last year on migration not surprisingly found that retirement destinations are characterized by large and growing older populations, but also are seeing growth across all age groups. In fact, all of the top retirement destinations in the West are experiencing high net in-migration across all ages.

“Sandpoint, Idaho: The Center Is Holding in this Western Small Town”

The New York Times

…But for some reason the center here is holding. Sandpoint, 400 miles from Boise, and 70 miles from Canada, is bucking a major demographic trend: In an era when many rural places are bleeding out, this one is holding its own. In the all-important sweepstakes of the West — where are people going, and staying — Bonner County, population 41,000, beat out Denver, Seattle, Silicon Valley and other booming urban hot spots, according to census figures…

…“There is a fair amount of economic research that says all you need is one person who is willing to dig in and fight to stay in a place, and that resonates,” said Megan Lawson, an economist at Headwaters Economics, a Montana research group that recently completed an economic analysis of Sandpoint. For many, she added: “It becomes a self-perpetuating process.”

“Trails Advocates Compare Tools for Building Local Economies, Communities”

Missoulian

Trails don’t talk, but they do tell tales.

And the common theme is economic prosperity, according to participants at last week’s South West Crown Regional Trail Conference in Seeley Lake….

Justifying such projects could become easier, thanks to a new Trail Benefits Library of research on trails developed last winter. Megan Lawson of Headwaters Economics demonstrated how the collection of more than 100 studies can answer questions raised by grant applications, government agencies or donors about a trail’s need…

“Headwaters Economics Study Summarizes Research on Trail System Value”

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

It’s hard to imagine Bozeman without its trail network, the city’s miles of paths well-loved by crowds of walkers, bikers and runners.

And there’s plenty of data to back up the conventional wisdom that the trail systems provide value to Bozeman and other communities, according to research by locally based Headwaters Economics.

It used to be, said Headwaters economist Megan Lawson, that trail systems were viewed as a luxury. Increasingly though, they’re seen as a necessity for “high amenity” communities like Bozeman, where the quality of life represents a major draw, akin to good schools, well-kept streets and low crime rates, she said….

“The Real Cost of Coal”

The New York Times

Congress long ago established a basic principle governing the extraction of coal from public lands by private companies: American taxpayers should be paid fair value for it. They own the coal, after all….

In 2013, approximately 40 percent of all domestic coal came from federal lands. A recent study by the independent nonprofit research group Headwaters Economics estimates that various reforms to the royalty valuation system would have generated $900 million to $5.6 billion more overall between 2008 and 2012…./blockquote>

“Recreation on Public Lands Drives Grand County Economy”

Salt Lake Tribune

Recent studies show what Utahns already instinctively know: travel and tourism in the Beehive State have increased significantly in recent years, creating more jobs and income for local residents.

Utah’s public lands have played a key role in this economic uptick, and the benefits extend beyond travel and tourism to other important sectors such as health care, finance and engineering.

“The West’s Forest Fire Problem Costs More Every Year”

Newsweek

…To make a real impact, Rasker says, we need to start doing something about the areas that have yet to be developed. Drawing on input from rangers, fire marshals, ecologists and government officials from all over the Western U.S., he’s developed a nine-point plan that would reduce the risk of wildfire by controlling the pattern of future development in the WUI.

The most basic step: requiring counties to disclose the fire risk potential to homebuyers. That alone, he argues, will have people thinking twice about building in the WUI….

“Rural Counties Dealing with Loss of Federal Dollars”

High Country News

…Mark Haggerty, of Bozeman, Montana-based Headwaters Economics, says all interests need to rethink both PILT and SRS, perhaps combining the compensation funds. One measure would be to distribute money to rural counties in need, rather than by the existing formula, based on counties’ total public land acreage, which doesn’t account for the urban development that generates plenty of revenue.

Haggerty and others have also pitched the idea of a natural resources trust to remedy the situation. Under that scenario, managers would bank appropriations over the next 15 to 20 years to build an endowment for rural services and land management. A trust could support restoration projects, wilderness management and logging, when appropriate, while leveraging the resources of regional cooperative programs, such as Idaho’s Clearwater Basin Collaborative…

“If we can show that we’re working collaboratively on the ground with the county commissioners, the timber industry and the environmental community, to recognize both local needs and national interests,” Haggerty says, “then we ought to have a payment system that encourages and rewards that kind of management planning.” Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, D, has included the idea in a recent forest-management reform package….

“Ohio Wants Its Slice of Fracking’s Oil Wealth”

Marketplace

By most measures, Ohio’s taxes on energy production are low. They’re less than 1 percent, compared to 7 percent in Texas, 11 percent in Wyoming, and 25 percent in Alaska.

Kasich wants to raise state taxes to 2.75 percent or even higher. Drilling companies threaten to leave and go to low-tax states. But that hasn’t happened historically.

A study by Headwaters Economics notes “the academic literature generally disagrees that tax competition is important to oil production.”

“It’s Time to Get the Incentives Right on Wildfires”

Sacramento Bee

The cost trends around wildfire also are troublesome. Since 1990, the number of homes destroyed has tripled. Yet in the last 30 years, 60 percent of new homes in the U.S. were built in the wildland-urban interface, the private land next to public forests.

Federal firefighting costs average $3 billion annually; also triple the amount from a decade ago. Our research and others indicates that at least one-third and up to 95 percent of the firefighting bill goes to defend private homes….

What has not yet been tried is altering the pattern of future home development on fire-prone lands. The key is to get the incentives right. Currently, local governments benefit from a federal government subsidy that pays the bulk of firefighting costs and underwrites risky and expensive developments. Passing on more costs to local governments – where home building is permitted – would incentivize better planning.

“Wilderness at 50: Understanding Its Role in Today’s Economy”

The Hill

With this year’s 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act some people are asking whether protected public lands, set aside for conservation, also provide economic benefits in addition to their scenic and recreation values.

The good news is that in today’s modern, technologically-advanced economy, wild places can help communities attract and retain talent. Wilderness (and national parks, wildlife refuges, national monuments) also can play a role in attracting the tidal wave of retiring Baby Boomers. And, more obviously, wild places create jobs in outdoor recreation, now a $646 billion industry.

“The Cost of Development in Wildfire Country”

Montana Public Radio

It’s estimated that at least 30 percent of the money the Forest Service and BLM spend on wildfires is spent to protect private property, like homes on the edge of public lands.

A new report from Headwaters Economics in Bozeman offers strategies to keep that number from growing.

“Wide Open Spaces”

The Bend Source Weekly

According to “Protected Lands and Economics: A Summary of Research and Careful Analysis on the Economic Impact of Protected Federal Lands,” a report published by Headwaters Economic this summer, western counties that have permanent protections on federal lands—such as National Parks, Monuments, or Wilderness Areas—show higher than average rates of job growth and have higher levels of per capita income.

“Protected federal public lands in the West, including lands in non-metro counties, can be an important economic asset that extends beyond tourism and recreation to attract people and businesses,” the report states.

“Campaign Launched to Shift Forest Firefighting Costs”

WyoFile

Protecting forest-edge homes from wildfires will become intolerably expensive unless western communities change the way they approve development, a Montana research group says.

Taxpayers subsidize irresponsible building when federal money is used to fight wildland fires, Headwaters Economics says in series of studies. Unless changes are made in the way homes are approved, sited, financed, insured and protected, the $3 billion national firefighting budget will erupt into an unsustainable burden, the group says…

“Wet Year Still Has Wildfire Dangers”

Bozeman Chronicle

…That economist, Ray Rasker with Headwaters Economics, suggested that making local governments responsible for some of these firefighting costs might motivate local leaders to practice smarter land-use planning by denying development plans that scatter homes around the fringes of heavily forested areas.

Local government participation in wildfire suppression costs is an idea that could gain political traction, and county commissioners had better brace for it. Rural fire departments – funded by taxpayers – suppress all other structural fires. Why shouldn’t they participate in the cost of defending homes in the so-called WUI, wildlands urban interface, when wildfire strikes?…

“As Trends Worsen, Time to Plan for Wildfire in the West”

The Denver Post

The West’s upcoming wildfire season holds the high risk of again being long, expensive and dangerous, with an acceleration of alarming trends that include more and bigger fires, and increased dangers and costs associated with the need to defend private homes. Unfortunately, what we have tried so far is not adequate to prepare for these developments…

Now is the time to add a third idea that would improve local land use planning and bring a level of cost accountability to the local governments that permit new homes and subdivisions. Today, national taxpayers fund much of the cost to suppress wildfires, and local governments do not face a financial risk when permitting homes on dangerous, fire-prone lands…