Americans are still geographically mobile, and the Western U.S. remains among the top destinations for migrants.
“I don’t want to be doomsday, but it is bleak right now, so we have to think about outdoor recreation as another economic specialization that’s vulnerable to boom-and-bust and think about long-term diversification.”
No one was particularly well prepared for a pandemic, but the tourism industry, with its dependence on visitors and discretionary spending, is highly vulnerable.
The large-scale wildfires along the west coast have three main causes, says Ray Rasker, director at Headwaters Economics. “We have more and more people living in wildfire prone areas, we have a 100-year history of suppressing fires, and add on top of that climate change, it’s hotter and drier, it’s the recipe for fire”.
Colorado has potential to become a model for other coal-dependent states, says Mark Haggerty, an economic geographer associated with the Headwaters Economics, a Montana-based think tank and an advisor on Colorado’s effort. “Discussions and draft recommendations are headed in the right direction, but there is more work to be done, and ultimately the model taking shape will need support from the Legislature and the governor.”
According to a recent analysis from Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group based in Montana, more than 700,000 people of color are at risk of being undercounted this year in the Mountain West alone, as the Mountain West News Bureau has reported.
For counties with economies based on recreation, the source of tourism seems to play a role in whether business has picked up. According to Megan Lawson, Ph.D., of the nonprofit research group Headwaters Economics, the pandemic has put the road trip back in style…“These communities are recovering more quickly than we expected. I think we weren’t anticipating all this pent up demand from when people couldn’t travel,” Lawson explained. “Now all of a sudden it was like America was shot out of a cannon into the rural parts of the country.”
The impacts also stretch beyond immediate job gains because of the way access to recreation drives economic growth in the rural West. Communities that have more protected lands nearby generally grow faster and have higher income levels, said Mark Haggerty, who researches rural economies for Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit think tank in Montana. That growth is driven by both tourism and new arrivals looking to live closer to the outdoors. “Residents and businesses want to be close to public lands,” Haggerty said. “Recreational amenities can attract high-wage jobs.”
According to a new analysis from Headwaters Economics, more than 700,000 people of color are at risk of being undercounted in the Mountain West alone.
“We all want fair representation, fair political representation, and since political representation is determined by the Census, it’s just a huge step backwards to not have communities of color be accurately represented in the census,” said Patricia Hernandez Gude, associate director at the nonprofit research group based in Montana.
Perhaps it is because the case for the gains that immigrants bring to society is so overwhelming—particularly for the declining rural areas that have been the strongest supporters of the anti-immigrant agenda—that the language of its proponents has become so extreme.
LWCF has been an important tool for rural communities who want to pursue outdoor recreation as a vehicle for rural economic development according to Megan Lawson, an economist with Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonprofit research group.
“LWCF has touched all 50 states, touched thousands of local communities, and it’s an important resource especially in rural places,” Lawson told the Daily Yonder.
Wyoming’s coal mining industry lost 20% of its customer base in the past 10 years and will lose another 23% over the next 10 years as the nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants continues to shrink, according to a report by the University of Wyoming and Montana-based Headwaters Economics. The same trend applies to coalfields in Appalachia, where only mines that produce metallurgic coal anticipate continuing markets in steelmaking.
Half of the 18 counties in Oregon’s timber-dominant region lost more money from tax cuts on private forests than from the reduction of logging on federal lands, the investigation shows.
Rose, the mountain biker in Spokane, volunteers with a mountain bike club to build new trails in a county that is 92.5% private land, according to data tabulated by Montana-based research firm Headwaters Economics.
The Bureau of Land Management has begun lowering royalties owed by companies that produce oil and gas on public lands, including tens of thousands of acres in Utah, to ease the financial strains created by the coronavirus pandemic… In 2017, Utah reaped about $54 million in federal oil and gas royalties, according to Headwaters Economics.
“Even after you account for all the economic factors that we can measure, recreation communities still charge a premium,” said Lawson, an economist with the Bozeman-based organization. “It still costs more to live in those places, because they have a quality of life, because they have, in some cases, this social cache.”
According to an analysis by Headwaters Economics, local taxes help fund health-care services — for areas that have hospitals — in more than half of rural Western counties with recreation-based economies.
“The rural health care system is already getting by on a shoestring, with rural hospitals closing and remaining hospitals being easily overwhelmed, especially in these rural communities that have demands beyond the local population.” Haggerty is concerned that public-sector hospitals, partially funded by taxpayers to remain open and available to both year-round local residents, are facing a combined problem of increased demand and declining local government revenues.
Last year, the federal government took in about $155 million in royalties from the oil, gas and coal operators on public land in Utah, according to Headwaters Economics. About 48% of that money is returned to the state of Utah, and the Republican members of Congress say in their letters that Interior should still flow back to the states where the drilling and mining is happening.
Ray Rasker with Headwaters Economics, a non-profit research group, said recreation-based counties are also particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of COVID-19.
“Recreation works through volume. We need to get lots of people in there, spending money and we need to see each other face to face, right? We need to come into your store and your coffee shop, into your restaurant,” Rasker said, adding that’s mostly impossible right now.
In the West, nearly 100,000 people over 65 years old live in counties without a hospital bed.