Media coverage of research by Headwaters Economics.

“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”


…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 trustto 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”


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 triedis 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”


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…

“How Can We Adjust to the Increasing Risk of Wildfires?”

KPCC--Southern California Public Radio

While the fires that broke out last week San Diego County are now almost fully contained, California is bracing for what could be the worst fire season ever.

Economist Ray Rasker, Executive Director of Headwaters Economics, joins Take Two to talk about what people can do to adjust to the increasing risk of wildfires…

“Advancing Development Drives Up Cost of Battling Wildfires”

USA Today

…The interfaces are high-fire-risk regions where homes, subdivisions and communities butt up against chaparral, conifers and other flammable vegetation.

Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, an independent research group in Bozeman, Mont., said the federal government can’t tell developers where to build — that’s up to local governments — but is obligated to spend whatever it takes to fight wildfires and protect property.

“It is a classic case of a moral hazard, where you have created a risky situation and the risks and the consequences of the behavior are borne by somebody else,” he said.…

“Wildfires Are Growing, And Growing More Costly”


…Researchers say a potent combination of climate change and homebuilding near wildfire-prone areas is already translating into bigger, longer, more dangerous fires, and none of those trends are showing signs of letting up.

“Fire is a big issue,” said Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, a nonpartisan research group focused on land management. “When you live in the West, you live with fire.”…

“Economist: To Save Lives, Limit Where People Live”

The Coloradian

…In a series of presentations at the Colorado Wildland Fire Conference in Glenwood Springs this week, Rasker, head of the Montana-based research group Headwaters Economics, discussed a controversial aspect of limiting fire devastation in the West. Everything is increasing — from length of fire seasons to temperatures — and the only thing humans can limit is development in Colorado’s wildfire zones, Rasker said…

“Surprising Sources Behind West’s Economy”


…You may be asking, “Non-labor what?” Non-labor income includes things like investment and retirement income, and medical or economic hardship payments. Headwaters Economics recently released an in-depth study of non-labor income across the West to better understand how it affects communities…

“Panel Discusses Ideas to Reduce Future Wildfire Risks”

The Denver Post

…Missing from serious consideration is what some experts consider the most effective solution going forward: restricting building in fire-prone zones.

What hasn’t been tried is controlling development,” Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics in Bozeman, Mont., said during a panel discussion on fire and the future of the wildland-urban interface Friday at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs…

“Long, Hot Winter Puts Western Fire Officials On Edge”


…Chris Mehl, the policy director at Headwaters Economics, an economic think tank that studies the cost of wildfires, says it’s good that Washington is looking for a change. “But I would argue that … also may miss the boat if that’s the only discussion rather than the future larger expenses.

Mehl says the cost of fire suppression has gone from $1 billion a year on average in the 1990s to $3 billion a year this decade. And the bigger trends are all wrong, too…