Economic Development

The economy has changed dramatically in recent decades, in both rural and urban areas. New research points to effective strategies that can improve regional competitiveness.

trails toolkit
Report

Trails Toolkit: Helping Communities Invest Wisely

— Communities and local leaders can utilize this trails toolkit to better understand whether and how trails can accomplish local goals, along with the cost and benefits of proposed projects.

read moreof Trails Toolkit: Helping Communities Invest Wisely
Report

Montana’s Outdoor Recreation Economy

— A new report highlights the role of Montana’s outdoor recreation economy in spending, jobs, and economic diversification.

read moreof Montana’s Outdoor Recreation Economy
Headwaters-staff-Chris-Mehl
Chris Mehl
Blog

City Trails: Improving Equitable Access

— Urban trail efforts increasingly are focusing on providing equitable access to trails. Trails and parks can create substantial benefits for public health, property values, and quality of life.

read moreof City Trails: Improving Equitable Access

Populations at Risk

— Populations at Risk quickly and easily generates and downloads reports about populations more likely to experience adverse social, health, or economic outcomes.

read moreof Populations at Risk
Report

New Montana Homes Increase Wildfire Risks

— The number of western Montana homes in areas with high wildfire hazard has doubled, outpacing development rates in areas with low wildfire hazard.

read moreof New Montana Homes Increase Wildfire Risks
DataViz

National Parks Economic Impacts

— Explore National Parks economic impacts from estimated visits, jobs, and labor income created by visitor spending in National Park Service lands.

read moreof National Parks Economic Impacts
old faithful, yellowstone
Report

Economic Impact of National Parks

— This interactive and background materials show visits, spending, and the number of jobs created in gateway communities for every National Park Service unit.

read moreof Economic Impact of National Parks
Report

Gallatin County’s Economy, Growth, and Open Space

— This report summarizes Gallatin County's economy, how it has grown, and what is driving its performance. The report also describes how growth threatens open space and the role these lands play in local quality of life.

read moreof Gallatin County’s Economy, Growth, and Open Space
Report

Montana Losing Open Space

— From 1990 to 2016, the number of single-family homes in Montana grew by 50 percent, and the popularity of large lots converted 1.3 million acres of undeveloped land to housing.

read moreof Montana Losing Open Space
Report

Estimating Trail Use

— By pairing limited, local surveys with activity tracking app data, we are estimating trail use across large areas.

read moreof Estimating Trail Use
Report

Benefits of a Frontage Path in Gallatin County, Montana

Updated: This report describes the benefits of a frontage path--a proposed paved, multi-use pathway connecting Belgrade and Bozeman along an approximately ten-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 10 in Gallatin County.

read moreof Benefits of a Frontage Path in Gallatin County, Montana
trails research
Report

Trails Research and Searchable Benefits Library

— Headwaters Economics compiled more than 130 trails research studies on the impacts of trails in a single library, searchable by type of benefit, use, year, and region.

read moreof Trails Research and Searchable Benefits Library
Report

Economic Challenges and Opportunities in Taos County

— The economic challenges and opportunities in Taos County stem from being both a bustling mountain resort town, and a rural community facing long-term socioeconomic challenges.

read moreof Economic Challenges and Opportunities in Taos County
Report / Series: Rural West Insights

Lessons from the Timber Transition

— Western counties once dependent on timber today perform similarly to like-sized counties. Three case studies outline economic lessons from counties that weathered the timber transition.

read moreof Lessons from the Timber Transition
Report

Montana’s Economy, Public Lands, and Competitive Advantage

— This report summarizes Montana’s economy analyzing recent growth and what is driving its performance, including a description of how federal lands help attract people, investment, and businesses.

read moreof Montana’s Economy, Public Lands, and Competitive Advantage
Report / Series: Rural West Insights

Economy Surprisingly Dependent on Non-Labor Income

— Non-labor income sources such as investments, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid often are the largest and fastest growing sources of personal income for many counties. Rural counties especially are surprisingly dependent on non-labor income.

read moreof Economy Surprisingly Dependent on Non-Labor Income
Hooper Park Pavilion, Lincoln, Montana
Report

Rural Economic Development in Lincoln, Montana

— Many rural western towns face economic uncertainty. This report—informed by interviews and public meetings with residents—compares Lincoln to peer communities and outlines rural economic development options building on the town’s strengths.

read moreof Rural Economic Development in Lincoln, Montana
Report / Series: Rural West Insights

Why the Rural West Matters

— The rural West matters for at least three important reasons: the vitality of the region’s landscape; its impact on local, state, and national politics; and the future of the area’s people and communities.

read moreof Why the Rural West Matters
federal lands data visualization
DataViz

Federal Lands in the Rural West: Liability or Asset?

— Rural counties in the West with more federal lands performed better on average than their peers with less federal lands in four key economic measures. Explore the trends and exceptions across the rural West.

read moreof Federal Lands in the Rural West: Liability or Asset?
Report

Dam Removal Case Studies

— Six dam removal case studies on the fiscal, economic, environmental, and social benefits of dam removal.

read moreof Dam Removal Case Studies
Report

Taos Trails Are Popular But Trail Access Varies

— In the Taos, New Mexico area trails are a fundamental part of health and quality of life, but differences in access to trails may limit the benefits for Hispanic and low-income residents.

read moreof Taos Trails Are Popular But Trail Access Varies
Report

Survey Finds Trails Valued Across Bonner County

— Survey provides information on Bonner County's trail system and will help prioritize improvements based on resident usage, satisfaction, reasons for living in the area.

read moreof Survey Finds Trails Valued Across Bonner County
Report

Planning for Montana’s Energy Transition

— While Montana is likely to experience relatively small impacts, coal-dependent communities in Eastern Montana are likely to feel the acute effects of job losses and declining tax revenue in the coming decades.

read moreof Planning for Montana’s Energy Transition
Headwaters-staff-Chris-Mehl
Chris Mehl
Blog

Know Your Economy: Economic Tools Updated for Every County

— Understanding the local economy, and how it compares to peers, is a crucial part of smart community and economic development. Several new tools, utilizing the latest data (through 2014), now are available for every county in the nation.

read moreof Know Your Economy: Economic Tools Updated for Every County
featured-image-dataviz-three-wests
DataViz

Three Wests

— Research shows there are three distinctly different types of counties in the West, defined by their access to major markets and population centers.

read moreof Three Wests
Report

Home Construction in the High Divide

— The High Divide region, recognized as one of the most intact biological areas in the lower 48 states, is attracting many new residents and home construction is changing the landscape.

read moreof Home Construction in the High Divide
scenic vista of Bonner County, Idaho
Report

Bonner County, Idaho’s Resilient Economy

— Analysis shows that Bonner County’s economy has grown steadily and been resilient, despite recessions and losing several large employers, and many local businesses are committed to the community and its high quality of life.

read moreof Bonner County, Idaho’s Resilient Economy
Report

Teton County Trails & Pathways Survey Shows Extensive Local Use

— Survey shows that nine out of 10 respondents use the pathways and trails in Teton County, Wyoming. Such surveys help community leaders, stakeholders, and citizens plan for the future of pathways and trails systems.

read moreof Teton County Trails & Pathways Survey Shows Extensive Local Use
Wheeler County vista
Report

Economic Development Opportunities in Wheeler County, Oregon

— Like many rural counties in the West, Wheeler County faces economic difficulties. It also has untapped resources and opportunities, which suggest the possibility of a brighter economic future.

read moreof Economic Development Opportunities in Wheeler County, Oregon
economic grand county
Report

The Economic Value of Public Lands in Grand County, Utah

— This updated report analyzes the economic value of public lands in Grand County, Utah and the important role that these lands play for local businesses and the well-being of the region’s economy.

read moreof The Economic Value of Public Lands in Grand County, Utah
uhaul trucks
Report

Migration & Population Trends in the West Vary by County Type

— County migration and population trends in the West constantly change. We summarize counties into four types--high-wage services, farm-dependent, oil and natural gas boom, and retirement destinations--to show the relationship between population and economic structure.

read moreof Migration & Population Trends in the West Vary by County Type
Report

Economic Opportunities in the Blackfoot Watershed

— This report provides an overview of the Blackfoot River watershed’s economy and summarizes the findings from six focus groups that explored potential economic opportunities.

read moreof Economic Opportunities in the Blackfoot Watershed
Report

The Tongass Transition Framework: A New Path Forward?

— This report examines whether the Tongass Transition Framework, which proposed a “new path forward,” is working to enhance economic opportunities in southeast Alaska while conserving the National Forest.

read moreof The Tongass Transition Framework: A New Path Forward?
Report

Benefits of Renewable Energy in the West Vary Widely

— The West is rich in renewable energy opportunities, but research demonstrates that property tax revenues from this development vary widely across 17 rural study counties due to state tax policies.

read moreof Benefits of Renewable Energy in the West Vary Widely
featured-image-three-wests-sortable-data
Report

Three Wests Sortable Data

— Review the economic and demographic differences between Metro, Connected and Isolated counties.

read moreof Three Wests Sortable Data
Report

The Economic Impacts of Restoration in Central Idaho

— This report provides a way to calculate the economic impacts of natural resource restoration activities to nearby communities that should be helpful to local officials, agency staff, and policy analysts.

read moreof The Economic Impacts of Restoration in Central Idaho
Report

Non-Labor Income: Large and Growing in Importance Across the West

— Non-labor income is one of the largest and fastest growing sources of income in the West; constituting 34 percent of total personal income in 2011 and 60 percent of net growth in real personal income during the last decade.

read moreof Non-Labor Income: Large and Growing in Importance Across the West
DataViz

Across the West, Non-Labor Income Is Large and Growing

— Among western counties, non-labor income makes up 41 percent of total personal income and is growing, representing 60 percent of net personal income growth in the last decade. Comprised of three main types—investments, age related, and hardship payments— non-labor income is affected by the stock market, retiring Baby Boomers, and changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

read moreof Across the West, Non-Labor Income Is Large and Growing
DataViz

Non-Labor Income for Western Counties, Sortable Data Table

— Across the West, non-labor income is a large and growing source of personal income. This sortable county-level interactive allows users to review the importance of three largest sources of non-labor income: investments, age related, and hardship payments.

read moreof Non-Labor Income for Western Counties, Sortable Data Table
Report

Owyhee Canyonlands Hold Economic Potential

— This report provides an initial analysis of the potential economic impact of protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands area in Malheur County, Oregon.

read moreof Owyhee Canyonlands Hold Economic Potential
DataViz

Atlas of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem

— This interactive website was created to help inform conservation goals and actions with knowledge of the geography and people in this unique region.

read moreof Atlas of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem
map of Michigan's Upper Penninsula
Report

The Upper Peninsula’s Economy and a Changing Climate

— This post summarizes the Climate Adaptation Report which provides a description of key economic sectors at greatest risk from extreme weather or long-term climate shifts and is intended to prepare the region’s forests, water resources, and communities for a less certain future.

read moreof The Upper Peninsula’s Economy and a Changing Climate
men working at restoration site
Report

Restoring the Clark Fork River

— Headwaters Economics worked with the Clark Fork Coalition, U.S. Forest Service, and others to create an interactive tool that describes many of the stories behind the ongoing recovery of the Clark Fork River.

read moreof Restoring the Clark Fork River
Map with public lands: Western States

West Is Best Reports: News Release

— News release for report that shows how the western United States is outperforming the rest of the country and the role protected federal lands in providing western states a competitive economic advantage.

read moreof West Is Best Reports: News Release
riding horses on the rocky mountain front
Report

Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front

— This report analyzes the Front’s land, people, and economy, how the region has changed in important ways during the past several decades, and the potential impact of the proposed Rocky Mountain Heritage Act on the Front.

read moreof Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front
Report

Western Counties and the Recession

— This study provides a number of lessons as the West slowly recovers from the recent recession about why some local economies performed better than others.

read moreof Western Counties and the Recession
scenic view of wild basin thunder lake
Report

Colorado’s Economy and the Role of Federal Protected Lands

— This report summarizes Colorado's economy and the role of federal protected lands, including how the state has performed, and Colorado's ability to attract people, investment, and businesses.

read moreof Colorado’s Economy and the Role of Federal Protected Lands
Report

Carey, Idaho and Economic Recovery

— This report summarizes interviews with local government and business leaders on obstacles to and opportunities for local economic recovery in Carey, Idaho from the last recession.

read moreof Carey, Idaho and Economic Recovery
Map showing growth of homes in the Wildland Urban Interface
Report

Missoula County Homes at Risk in Flood and Wildfire Areas

— These two slideshows and related information use Missoula County and Western Montana to show how many homes have been built in flood and wildfire hazard areas, which are vulnerable to larger and more frequent floods and fires.

read moreof Missoula County Homes at Risk in Flood and Wildfire Areas
Map showing Montana portion of Crown of the Continent
Report

Crown of the Continent and Climate Change

— This report studies the possible effects of climate change in the Crown of the Continent on two “snow-pack” dependent sectors of the economy--downhill skiing and recreational fishing.

read moreof Crown of the Continent and Climate Change
Aerial of Yellowstone River
Report

Yellowstone River Atlas

— This site documents the economic and demographic conditions of counties bordering the Yellowstone River, and displays maps showing past, current, and forecasted residential development along the river.

read moreof Yellowstone River Atlas
Clearwater collaborative
Report

Clearwater Basin Collaborative

— The Clearwater Basin Collaborative is a diverse group of regional interests working together to craft a plan for the protection, use, and management of National Forest land within the Clearwater Basin in Idaho.

read moreof Clearwater Basin Collaborative
NM Natural Assets
Report

The Economic Benefits of Southern New Mexico’s Natural Assets

— This report examines how investments in conservation and restoration provide both an immediate return through employment and revenue and help promote long-term economic growth that extends far beyond tourism.

read moreof The Economic Benefits of Southern New Mexico’s Natural Assets
Sitka meeting

Sitka, Alaska Workshop

— Headwaters Economics facilitated a day-long workshop on how to apply the Forest Service's new Integrated Resource Management approach on the Sitka Ranger District.

read moreof Sitka, Alaska Workshop
Okanogan valley
Report

Ranchland Ownership in Okanogan County, WA

— This report on land ownership and the ranching economy in the Okanogan Valley and Eastern Okanogan County focuses on fragmentation and turnover in large, agricultural properties and the effects of these trends.

read moreof Ranchland Ownership in Okanogan County, WA
map of high divide counties
Report

High Divide GIS Data

— Headwaters Economics developed historical and forecasted housing data for the High Divide based on county tax assessor records. Download GIS data showing 2013 home counts per Public Land Survey Section.

read moreof High Divide GIS Data
Report

The Economy of the Gila Region

— This report explores the question of whether and how rural, isolated communities can benefit from being gateways to large expanses of public lands.

read moreof The Economy of the Gila Region
Report

The Union Pacific Railroad Line, Timber and Southwest Montana

— This report examines the importance of southwest Montana timber to the Union Pacific Railroad line, and the significance of the railroad as a mode of transportation for timber-related manufacturers.

read moreof The Union Pacific Railroad Line, Timber and Southwest Montana
Report

Santa Fe National Forest Workshop

— The workshop involved the public in developing a new Forest Plan in light of the socioeconomic situation of the area and how it has changed since the last Forest Plan was adopted.

read moreof Santa Fe National Forest Workshop