Research ArticleECONOMICS

National monuments and economic growth in the American West

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Science Advances  18 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 12, eaay8523
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay8523


National monuments in the United States are protected lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of historic or scientific interest. Their designations are often contentious. Opponents argue that monuments hurt local economies by limiting uses of public lands, while supporters counter that monuments create a new amenity-driven economy. We use panel data on all business establishments in the eight-state Mountain West region to estimate economic impacts of 14 monument designations over a 25-year period. We find that monuments increased the average number of establishments and jobs in areas near monuments; increased the average establishment growth rate; had no effect, positive or negative, on the number of jobs in establishments that existed pre-designation; and had no effect on mining and other industries that use public lands. On net, protecting lands as national monuments has been more help than hindrance to local economies in the American West.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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