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Economic Report: A Small Business Voice for Public Lands in the West

Publisher: 
Small Business Majority
Date: 
Thursday, 16 April, 2015

Small business owners agree protecting our natural assets is a good way to enhance the success of local businesses and economies, particularly in the West, where parks and monuments play a large role in attracting talent and creating and keeping jobs. 

Small business owners understand the connection between the preservation of public lands and their bottom lines. National parks and monuments bring tourism dollars into their places of business and help attract talented employees, and many entrepreneurs started businesses in communities near public lands because of that reason. 

This paper examines the benefits of protecting public lands to small businesses and local economies in the West, and how public lands attract entrepreneurs and tourists who contribute to the success of Western states. It also provides recommendations policymakers can use to take further steps to ensure the protection of public lands that are crucial to the success of small businesses and economies in the West.

Recommendations

Congress should fully fund and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund: The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which receives its funding from fees paid by oil and gas companies drilling offshore, protects national forests and parks. It also provides matching grants for state and local governments to use for local parks, trails and playgrounds. However, in the 50 years since the Fund was first authorized, it has only received its full funding once. What’s more, the Fund is set to expire this year if not extended. Congress should vote to extend the life of the Fund beyond 2015, in addition to making sure it receives its full funding. Our scientific opinion polling in Louisiana found 93% of small businesses believe Congressional leadership should extend the life of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. What’s more, 80% believe the Fund can create outdoor recreation opportunities, which support local jobs and small businesses. Additionally, a recent poll found three-quarters of residents in Western states support Congress continuing to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund through oil and gas fees.

Berryessa Snow Mountain should be designated as a national monument: Berryessa Snow Mountain, located in northern California about 100 miles north of Sacramento, draws in visitors that spend money at local hotels, restaurants and stores, sustaining the local economy. More than 200 local businesses support permanent protection of Berryessa because it would boost the local economy due to increased tourism. Congress or the Administration should provide permanent protection of Berryessa Snow Mountain in order to protect California’s natural assets while helping small businesses.

Permanent protection of the Boulder-White Clouds landscape should be provided: The Boulder-White Clouds landscape in central Idaho is the largest unprotected, wild roadless area in national forests outside of Alaska. Boulder-White Clouds attracts hunters, anglers, rafters and other outdoor enthusiasts who help contribute to the rural economies in the area and support local small businesses and jobs. In fact, a study commissioned by the Idaho Outdoor Business Council found that designating this area as a national monument would create new jobs in the area and increase the region’s total economic output by $3.7 - $12.3 million per year.

The federal government should formally track jobs in the outdoor recreation industry: Research shows the outdoor recreation industry employs more people in the U.S. than industries like mining, timber and oil and gas; however, many policymakers fail to recognize the impact this sector has on businesses and the economy. In order to recognize the importance of the outdoor economy and the public lands that fuel this industry, the federal government should formally measure jobs in the outdoor recreation industry.

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