By Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer
Of all federal land-use designations, "Wilderness" is the
most restrictive. It prohibits roads, road construction, motorized travel,
mechanized equipment, logging, mining, telecommunication towers, transmission
lines and energy pipelines. Environmentalists often claim that "Wilderness"
attracts tourism and boosts local economies. According to a recent study by Utah State
University, very often
the opposite is true.
"The argument often stated by the environmental
community that Wilderness is good for local economies is simply not supported
by the data," states the summary of "The Economic Costs of Wilderness."
Released in 2011, the study was written by Brian Steed, Ryan Yonk and Randy
Simmons, of the John M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State.
Conclusions from the study--and useful talking points for
OHV advocates to bring to meetings that involve the Wilderness designation--are
important to note:
- When comparing
Wilderness and non-Wilderness counties, Wilderness counties are at an economic
disadvantage to their non-Wilderness counterparts. Accordingly, if the test for
whether or not to designate Wilderness is economic, Wilderness fails.
- Economics did not
underlie the Wilderness Act or any of the Wilderness Areas established since the Act was passed (1964). Wilderness is established for
emotional, ecological and cultural purposes. Results show that those purposes are accomplished at a cost to local economies.
- Controlling for other
factors influencing county economic conditions, the Wilderness designation is significantly associated with lower per capita
income, lower total payroll and lower total tax receipts in counties.
- Despite these differing
views, Congress has continued creating Wilderness Areas. There are 759
Wilderness Areas currently in the United States, totaling 109,663,992
- Wilderness is managed
by four federal agencies: the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. National Park Service,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
- Only six states
contain no Wilderness: Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and Rhode Island.
The Economic Costs of Wilderness" will make an excellent addition to the NOHVCC
on-line library, which contains many studies showing the positive impact OHV
recreation has on state and local economies.
To read the study and download a PDF of the findings for
future reference, go to http://www.environmentaltrends.org/single/article/the-economic-costs-of-wilderness.html.