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Colorado Federal Lands = Big Economic Benefits

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May 30, 2012

DENVER - Colorado's natural landscape yields big economic benefits, according to a report released today - and not just in terms of outdoor recreation and tourism.

From 2000 through 2010, says the study of the economic role of federally protected lands, Colorado's economy grew faster and outperformed the U.S. economy as a whole. At the same time, it says, Coloradans' personal income grew by 15 percent, and the state ranked fifth in the nation for entrepreneurial activity.

Dr. Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, helped conduct the study. He says it shows a big shift from past decades, when Colorado's wide open spaces were seen by some as a disadvantage.

"In today's modern economy, where we're dealing with UPS, FedEx, the Internet, really good airplane connections, we're finding these vast open spaces between cities are actually our competitive advantage."

While tourism is one growth industry for the state, the study shows, other areas - such as finance, health care and professional and technical services - are all growing much faster.

Ryan Martens, founder of Rally Software, says his company could have located anywhere but is based in Boulder because the city offers what he calls a perfect combination: a technology hub and a spectacular location, 35 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park.

"That creates a soul of a community, but it also creates a soul of a company. Why would you form a business anyplace else?"

Rasker says the study found many other companies share Rally Software's philosophy that location is important.

"Those counties that have protected areas are growing much quicker. They're adding jobs at a much faster pace than counties that don't have those assets."

That's true across the West, according to the report. Rural counties made up of more than 30 percent federally protected lands increased jobs by 345 percent during the past decade, the study says, while non-metropolitan western counties with no protected federal lands saw an 83 percent job increase.

The full report will be available online after 9 a.m. MDT today at headwaterseconomics.org/land.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO