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Report: Nearly Half of Moab Jobs Connected to Public Lands

PHOTO: A new report finds that Arches National Park and other public lands are providing a huge economic boost for Moab and the surrounding area. Photo courtesy USA.gov.
PHOTO: A new report finds that Arches National Park and other public lands are providing a huge economic boost for Moab and the surrounding area. Photo courtesy USA.gov.
March 4, 2015

MOAB, Utah - A new report adds to a growing stack of studies showing that public lands can have a huge impact on local economies.

Chris Mehl, policy director of the nonprofit research group Headwaters Economics, authored a report that analyzed the employment picture in Grand County - which encompasses Moab, as well as Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

"We found that almost half - 47 percent - of private jobs in the county are supported by tourism and recreation on these public lands," he said, "like the national parks, the Forest Service land, the BLM land."

Mehl said his research found that the booming tourism and recreation sectors also have driven job gains and earnings in other sectors. He said job growth increased more than 50 percent in health care, finance and insurance, from 2001 to 2013. During the same period, he said, per-capita income rose from about $28,000 to $40,000 a year.

Mehl said a key challenge facing Grand County leaders is how to best invest in infrastructure and services that will continue to grow and diversify the economy.

"Expand the airport. Look to continuing ed., maybe a community college or some classes for adult retraining or education, to try and lock this in and continue to expand so it's not just tourism and recreation-based."

He added that the economic benefits tied to public lands reach beyond the Moab area - citing research from the National Park Service showing that in 2013, national parks throughout Utah attracted nearly 9 million visitors, who spent nearly $600 million, which supported more than 9,000 private-sector jobs.

The study is online at headwaterseconomics.org.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT