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 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 11:28 am 
Below is a press release describing a trip I went on to D.C. last week to promote the economic value of high quality natural amenities in attracting and retaining high wage jobs to rural commmunities:

By Gordon West and Laura E. Sanchez

Last week we traveled to Washington, D.C., as part of a broad coalition of businesses CEOs and business organizations, including the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Majority. The purpose of our trip was to make a case for protecting public lands in New Mexico and explaining the local business benefits of a balance between development and conservation of public lands.

Recently, President Obama recognized one of New Mexico’s unique sites with permanent protection when he designated Rio Grande del Norte as a National Monument. This is certainly good news and the economic benefits of this designation are already being felt in northern New Mexico. However, we must continue to push for more designations in New Mexico, beginning with places like the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks near Las Cruces, so we can preserve our shared heritage.

As New Mexicans who both have lived in southwestern New Mexico, we understand the economic benefits that protected public lands such as the Gila, Aldo Leopold, and Blue Range Wilderness Areas have on surrounding communities. Thus, on our trip to the nation’s capital, we met with policymakers to discuss protecting public lands because they are hugely important to the local, rural economies of our state.

In recent years, Congress has considered several bills that would either sell off public lands or weaken protections for our parks and monuments. But the facts reveal that it would be a colossal economic mistake for Congress to pass these harmful bills.

A study conducted last year by Headwaters Economics looked at economic trends over four decades and found that much stronger-than-average economic and wage growth occurred in areas that are adjacent to protected public lands. The obvious reason for this trend is that protected public lands provide immense opportunities for outdoor recreation that make for a high quality of life. This, in turn, attracts new businesses and the highly skilled employees they need to succeed.

Specifically, Headwaters Economics found that from 1970 to 2010, non-metro counties in the western United States that had more than 30 percent of federally protected land experienced a 345 percent increase in jobs. By comparison, similar counties with no federally protected lands have experienced only an 83 percent increase in jobs in that same period of time.

An additional benefit is that the high-wage earners who relocate to New Mexico begin spending their money on local goods and services. This new money’s circulation through local businesses strengthens the economies of our non-metro counties and allows business owners to expand and hire new employees to match the increased demand.

These economic benefits demonstrate why it is so important to continue advocating for increased protection of New Mexico’s public lands. Yes, it is very important to protect our state’s natural scenery and cultural traditions, but it is also vital that we stimulate our local economies by protecting unique attractions on our public lands. For this to happen, our national leaders—from Congress to President Obama—must be committed to putting conservation on equal ground with development of these lands.

The new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is indicative of how protecting public lands and boosting local economies can be accomplished in New Mexico.

But our work is not done. We must ensure that more unique sites, such as the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks, are permanently protected for the sake of all New Mexicans, now and into the future.

Gordon West owns Restoration Technologies, LLC, in Silver City, a company that develops products that add value to low/negative value woody biomass. Laura E. Sanchez, a Deming native, is the CEO of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.

 Author: gorwest
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 1:08 pm 
Here is a link to the Headwaters Economics report that describes the drivers behind rural economies in the western U.S.


 Author: Ski
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 2:05 pm 
Kudos, Gordon, for this post, and to you & Laura both for your public lands advocacy.

In addition to Sagebrush Rebellion-type bills being pushed in the U.S. Congress, legislation was also introduced in our NM Legislature this year aimed at getting the federal government to transfer national public lands to our state.

Specifically, HB 292, Transfer of Public Land Act, primarily co-sponsored by state representative Yvette Herrell (R-Dist. 51, Otero County) required that the U.S. Government "extinguish" title to most national public lands and transfer those public lands to the state.

I believe the reason behind these American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-pushed bills is to foster privatization of public assets--including public water--for private profit.

Fortunately, HB 292 died in one of the House committees. Doubtless, though, it will arise again in 2015.

Nothing will be well until we learn to live in harmony with the power of the world as it lives and moves and does its work. -~Black Elk, Oglala Lakota Medicine Man, 1863–1950.

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