Something that 100 economists can actually agree upon

How many economists does it take to get President Obama to protect American lands? Hopefully 100, according to a recent letter sent to the White House by Headwaters Economics, an independent nonpartisan research firm.

The letter urged President Obama to “create jobs and support businesses by investing in our public lands infrastructure and establishing new protected areas such as parks, wilderness and monuments.”  It was signed by 100 economists from all 50 U.S. states, including three Nobel laureates.

As the vice president for ecology and economics research at The Wilderness Society, I have been studying and analyzing the benefits of wild lands for nearly twenty years.  And the letter hit the nail right on the head.

In the press release, Walt Hecox, an economics professor and director of Colorado College's State of the Rockies Project, said “The large and vital service and recreation/tourism sectors in the American West directly depend upon healthy public lands and a clean environment: employers, employees and visitors alike increasingly are ‘foot loose’ in deciding location, a competition overwhelmingly won in the Rockies today.”

Indeed, in a policy brief by The Wilderness Society based on my own doctoral research, we found that designated wilderness areas on public lands generate a range of economic benefits for individuals, communities and the nation — among them, the attraction and retention of residents and businesses and the protection of watersheds, recreational opportunities and scenic vistas. It also showed that wilderness generates enhanced property values, which translate into financial benefits for residents of communities close to wilderness areas.

And a recent report by The Wilderness Society highlights the jobs opportunities in outdoor recreation, restoration, renewable energy and energy efficiency that often accompany sound public land management.

I hope the President listens to the best and the brightest in our country and works to protect more national parks, wilderness areas and national monuments. These places are the natural treasures and economic lifeblood of our communities.

To view the letter, please visit