Urban Fold

Preserving the American West

Over half of the land in the American West is publicly owned. Policy over the last century has tended towards allowing the extraction of natural resources, but it may be time for a shift into preservation.

"Between 1970 and 2000, nonlabor jobs fueled 86 percent of this growth. Mining, timber, and agriculture (including ranching) contributed only 1 percent. Now, 93 percent of jobs in the West have no direct link to public lands, says Rasker. But wilderness areas, in conjunction with infrastructure like airports, correlated closely with areas that saw the greatest growth.

'The major contribution is that it creates a setting,' he says, and that's what immigrants want. Conserving rather than exploiting nature makes more economic sense, he says. People move here to live near nature.

Land-management agencies have been slow to recognize the new role of unspoiled public lands as an amenity, he says. But they're coming around. The marked 'blue shift' in the politics of Western states in the recent election suggests a more conservation-minded public."

Full Story: Can America’s West stay wild?

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