How to cite this study
Smith, J., Wilkins, E., Miller, A.B. 2021. Bears Ears and Outdoor Recreation in San Juan County, Utah. Society & Natural Resources 34(7): 966-979.
Utah State University researchers found that the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County, Utah, has likely increased outdoor recreation volume and growth in outdoor recreation-related industries. Retail trade, scientific, professional, and technical services as well as food services have all experienced significant economic growth in the three years after the monument was created. The researchers expect that the monument’s creation will ultimately result in a long-term increase in outdoor recreational activity in the county.
This study is relevant to those interested in how changes in land management, such as the creation of a national monument, can change the volume of outdoor recreation and economic activity in different sectors. The methodology includes using social media data from Flickr, a photo-sharing platform, to measure visitation patterns.
This study is located in San Juan County, Utah.
This study measures outdoor recreation volume and the outdoor recreation-related industries of San Juan County. The outdoor recreation covers various types of land, including Forest Service land, National Park Service areas, Bureau of Land Management, private lands, tribal lands, State Institutional Trust lands, BENM Original Designation, and BENM Revised Designation land.
The purpose of this study is to understand how the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument impacted outdoor recreation industries and outdoor recreation volume in San Juan County, Utah. This study was conducted by The Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State University.
- Outdoor recreational activity increased by 72% in the three years after the creation of Bears Ears National Monument in 2016, relative to the 10-year baseline period spanning 2004-2013.
- Comparing the three years before and after monument designation reveals a 29% increase in the total volume of outdoor recreation in the county.
- After the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive in 2020, there was a nearly 90% decrease in outdoor recreation, likely due to a decrease in outdoor recreationists from outside the county, highlighting the magnitude of the statewide lockdown.
- General construction and building construction businesses decreased significantly after the creation of the monument. However, the authors note that this difference does not appear to be economically significant because there were no notable decreases in either the county’s overall payroll or the average monthly wages in construction.
- Retail trade businesses increased from 29.6 to 33.1% since the creation of the monument while real estate and rental businesses have declined from 22.3 to 18.9%.
- Food and drinking establishments grew the most: the mean number of employees per business increased by 88 employees. The average combined monthly payroll of all food and drink businesses doubled to almost $1.3 million.
The authors use 16 years of geotagged social media data from Flickr to quantify outdoor recreation, aggregating to the month and then averaging across all months. According to recent research in Utah, Flickr captures approximately three-fourths of the variation in annual visitation to federally managed lands. They used a photo-use-day (PUD) to reduce the measurement error from individuals posting more photographs than other users. They also used data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages such as an average number of employees in recreation-related industries and monthly wages, comparing mean quarterly values before and after the monument was created. Two-sample t-tests were used to determine statistically significant differences between the baseline period (January 1, 2005 – December 31, 2013) to the before (January 1, 2014- December 28, 2016) and after (December 29, 2016 – December 31, 2019) monument creation periods.
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