West Is Best: Protected Lands Promote Utah Jobs and Higher Incomes

/ Series: West Is Best

Utah has been a national leader in economic growth during the past decade. This report looks at the state's economy and the role of protected public lands.

“Utah’s hiking, camping, and mountain biking amenities are unmatched. Being home to five national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, and six national forests, Utah has hundreds of thousands of acres of terrain for any and all outdoor activities.”

–Economic Development Corporation of Utah

Utah’s economy is growing and outperforming the rest of the country.

This fact sheet summarizes Utah’s recent economic growth and the role of protected public lands in supporting faster job creation and higher per-capita income. It is part of a larger report — West is Best — that analyzes how and why the West is outperforming the nation, and the competitive advantage offered by its protected lands, which attract talent, investment, and businesses.

Utah vs Non-Western U.S.,
Percent Change, 2000-2011

Chart: Utah vs U.S., Percent Change 2000-2011
From 2000 to 2011, Utah’s rate of population, employment, and real personal income growth each outpaced the rest of the nation.

Higher-wage services industries lead Utah’s growth.

Change in Employment by Industry, Utah, 2000-2011

Chart: Change in Employment by Industry, Utah 2000-2011
From 2000 to 2011, Utah’s economy created 279,927 net new jobs, with the great majority of this growth coming from services industries, many of them high-paying. The fastest growing sectors included real estate, health care, and finance and insurance.

Protected federal lands help create more jobs…

Utah has grown significantly during the past decade.  From 2000 to 2011, Utah ranked 1st in the nation for employment growth, 3rd nationally for population growth, and 8th for personal income growth.

Percent Change in Employment,
Non-Metro West, 1970-2010

Chart: Percent Change in Employment, Non-Metro West, 1970-2010
From 1970 to 2010, western non-metro counties with more than 30% of the county’s land base in federal protected status increased jobs by 345%. As the share of federal lands in protected status goes down, the rate of job growth declines as well. Non-metro counties with no protected federal land increased jobs by 83%.

…and contribute to higher incomes.

Average Increase in Per-Capita Income from Protected Public Lands for Non-Metro West, 2010

Chart: Average Increase in Per-Capita Income from Protected Public Lands for Non-Metro West, 2010
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.

Non-metro counties in the West with protected federal lands have higher per-capita incomes than counties without any protected lands. For example, a non-metro western county with 100,000 acres of protected public lands has on average a per capita income that is $4,360 higher than a county with no protected public lands.

References

  • The West is defined as the 11 public lands continental western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. “Protected” federal lands include areas such as National Parks, Wilderness, National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, National Recreation Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Wildlife Refuges. For more details, see: the full report.
  • Non-Metropolitan counties are counties without an urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, or a high degree of social and economic integration with a Metropolitan Statistical Area as measured by commuting ties.
  • Data in this publication are from: U.S. Department of Commerce. 2012. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Department of Commerce. 2012. Census Bureau, Population Division, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Department of Commerce. 2012. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Department of Commerce. 2011. Census Bureau, County Business Patterns, Washington, D.C.; AZ Land Resources Information System, 2009; MT Natural Heritage Program, 2008; Conservation Biology Institute, 2008 (for CA); Conservation Biology Institute, 2006 (for remaining states).
  • Details on the per-capita income study are in our Technical Report.
  • Some industry categories have been modified from the original source to better illustrate employment in sub-sectors that are important to the western economy. Wood Products Manufacturing is a sub-set of total Manufacturing and consists of the wood product (NAICS 511) and paper (NAICS 537) manufacturing sectors. The Bureau of Economic Analysis does not report employment at this NAICS level (i.e., the 3-digit level), but does provide personal income at this level. To estimate employment for these sectors at the 3-digit level, we calculated a ratio consisting of personal income earned in these sectors divided by personal income earned in all manufacturing. We multiplied this ratio by total manufacturing employment to estimate the number of jobs in wood products and paper manufacturing. Manufacturing consists of total manufacturing minus Woods Products Manufacturing. Forestry is part of Forestry, Fishing, Related Activities, and Other and consists of the non-manufacturing components of the timber industry, such as growing and harvesting.