National Monuments and Economic Growth in the American West

A groundbreaking study by RFF researchers, published in Science Advances, shows that national monuments have had mostly positive effects on local economies in the American West.

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March 18, 2020


Journal Article in Science Advances

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1 minute


National monuments in the United States are protected lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. Their designations are often contentious. Opponents argue that monuments hurt local economies by limiting uses of public lands, while supporters counter that monuments create a new amenity-driven economy. We use panel data on all business establishments in the eight-state Mountain West region to estimate economic impacts of 14 monument designations over a 25-year period. We find that monuments increased the average number of establishments and jobs in areas near monuments; increased the average establishment growth rate; had no effect, positive or negative, on the number of jobs in establishments that existed pre-designation; and had no effect on mining and other industries that use public lands. On net, protecting lands as national monuments has been more help than hindrance to local economies in the American West


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