This opinion column was submitted by Meghan Wolf, Patagonia’s Environmental Activism Manager and Founder of the Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition.
Nevada is home to unparalleled landscapes, from Basin and Range National Monument to Death Valley National Park to Lake Tahoe. Their majestic peaks fill our spirits and their deep gorges bring us solace. Nevadans consider public lands our natural heritage and deserve frequent visits from residents.
These special places make Nevada their home and attract outdoor enthusiasts from around the world who also come to admire the natural beauty. According to Get Outdoors Nevada, more than 14 million people visited national parks, national recreation areas and state parks in Nevada in 2019. With the summer season approaching, visitors are already flocking to our public parks and recreation areas. Although ecotourism has suffered some setbacks like other areas of our economy at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a true catalyst for economic growth and offers Nevada an opportunity for economic diversification.
Our wide open landscapes set the perfect stage for a booming outdoor leisure industry. The US Department of Commerce reports that outdoor recreation in Nevada directly supported 49,501 jobs in 2020, 3.8 percent of the state’s labor force. Outdoor recreation spans a variety of industries, from well-known retailers like Patagonia and REI to restaurants that feed hungry outdoor enthusiasts after a long day in the Nevada outdoors. The industry also generated $2.1 billion in wages and salaries.
Nevada’s outdoor industry generated gross domestic product of $3.9 billion in 2020. People vote with their wallets, and that spending reflects support for and investment in nature. The public supports the maintenance of parks and trails, the restoration of migratory corridors so animals can travel safely, and the construction of a new national monument. Today, local conservationists, tribal groups, elected leaders and business leaders are working to do just that.
Naming makes sense for public properties, businesses
The designation of Avi Kwa Ame, the Mojave name for Spirit Mountain, as a National Monument will protect nearly 450,000 acres of ecological, cultural and historical landscapes. It will also expand the outdoor industry’s opportunities for hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting and other hiking sports.
But the creation of the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument is not just a public land decision. It is an important economic policy. Designation will create new jobs and generate revenue for the state while preserving important land and wildlife habitats.
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National monuments are proven to boost local economies. A study by Headwaters Economics found that the local economies of 17 national monuments grew following the creation of the memorial sites. The study found that protected land contributes to job creation and economic growth.
“From the early 1970s through the early 2010s, Western counties with the highest proportion of protected states experienced, on average, faster population, employment, and income growth – twice faster or more – than their peers with the lowest proportion of protected states,” so the report.
Local business experts and advocates know what national monuments can do for their community. Chambers of commerce in Boulder City and Laughlin, whose cities would become gateway communities for the proposed memorial, campaigned for their support for the protection of Avi Kwa Ame. Jackie Wallin, President/CEO of the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce, spoke proudly of her own city’s growing economy and said, “Laughlin has emerged as the regional leader in outdoor recreation for tourists and tri-state residents and visitors alike. The national monument would complement the efforts we are already driving. Laughlin is excited to be part of this process.”
Outdoor industry relies on monuments
Our outdoor industry has the power to revitalize communities and fuel economic growth. That’s why in 2018, Nevada’s outdoor businesses began organizing to promote and represent initiatives that support the recreational industry and protect our natural spaces, forming the Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition. We are a collaboration of business owners and conservationists and have worked with government agencies, elected leaders and community stakeholders to share our vision of a strong economy powered by outdoor businesses. That’s why we’re proud to be committed to building the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument that will do just that.
A growing outdoor economy reflects our community’s diverse values: protection of our public lands and wildlife, increased access to natural spaces, improved public health, and a strong economy. 84% of the region supports the creation of new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife sanctuaries and tribal sanctuaries. By carefully pinpointing future renewable energy developments, we can align our clean energy goals with our conservation values.
Answering Nevadans’ call for protected natural areas, the proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument will serve as a prime example of how future investments can protect public lands, combat the climate crisis and support economic growth.
Meghan Wolf is a Reno-based Patagonia Environmental Activism Manager and founder of the Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition, a platform for businesses to support Nevada’s public lands.
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