Economic Output on Federal Lands Saw Sharp Increase in FY2017
Use of federal lands led to an increase in both job creation and economic output for the first time in several years, according to the Department of the Interior’s Economic Report for Fiscal Year 2017.
Economic output resulting from federal lands and resources increased by $400 million to $292 billion, which the number of jobs associated with land use increased by 230,000 to 1.8 million total jobs.
The report credits increased revenues from energy production as well as other factors like infrastructure development and regulatory reform for the positive trendline.
“Anyone who grew up in the West can tell you that federal lands are working lands and, if managed properly, they support jobs and economic activity for communities in industries like recreation, energy, agriculture, and mining,” said Secretary Zinke in a statement. “…This report shows that thanks to smart regulatory reforms and increased access, federal lands and waters are once again increasing economic output and creating jobs.”
Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado were three of the top five states who contributed the most to GDP and job growth.
Wyoming was responsible for $12.72 billion in GDP generation and nearly 100,000 jobs last year. New Mexico was not far behind, contributing $10.12 billion in GDP and more than 86,000 jobs; while Colorado added $5.6 billion to GDP and 57,000 jobs.
The Interior Department claims it has reduced the ”semi-annual regulatory agenda” by more than half and also instituted 21 deregulatory actions in 2017. These actions have saved an estimated $3.8 billion, according to the department.
Improvements to U.S. National Park infrastructure was also a large contributor to the gains seen in 2017.
“Additionally, Secretary Zinke increased deferred maintenance dollars and approved $256 million in funding to rebuild critical national park infrastructure supporting both construction jobs and higher visitation. The NPS completed over $650 million in maintenance and repair work in Fiscal Year 2017,” the Interior Department wrote in a statement.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made addressing the nation’s deferred maintenance backlog via legislation a priority for his administration. Currently, there is an estimated $11.6 billion backlog impacting some of the most recognizable landmarks in the U.S. like Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon.
A bill currently up for consideration in Congress would create a fund from revenues deriving from oil and gas development on federal lands whose resources would be put directly toward much-needed infrastructure improvements. According to Zinke, such a fund would provide up to $18 billion for such maintenance projects over 10 years.
The Restore Our Parks Act enjoys bipartisan support in both chambers. Colorado’s Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) are cosponsoring the bill along with Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.). In the House both, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) are co-sponsoring their own version of the bill.
The Interior Department expects economic growth of federal lands to continue into this year.
“The economic impact of Interior’s public lands under President Trump and Secretary Zinke is expected to show increases in FY2018 as well due to expanded access to federal lands, regulatory reform, increased energy production, and more projects being approved for development,” the department said.
Energy disbursements in Fiscal Year 2018 totaled $8.93 billion, marking a $2 billion increase from the year prior.