A new National Park Service (NPS) report states that in 2012, the 2,705,215 visitors to national park sites in San Juan County spent $150 million and supported 1,910 jobs.
The article was based on a study that was conducted by the National Park Service and the US Geological Survey. It was a national study, but the main part of the article in the San Juan Record focused on the parks located in San Juan County. The article states that the parks service supported and was responsible for the creation of 1,910 jobs in the county. They implied that this was a big boast to the local economy.
Which all sounds really good but according to Statistical information on unemployment figures for San Juan County the county was sitting at 9.3% unemployment in 2013. The national unemployment rate was 7.0% and in Utah the rate was around 4.3% unemployment. So the boast if there was one in 2012 really didn’t appear to do much locally or nationally. This raises some questions about the validity of the study.
The following document came from the State of Utah covering the San Juan County economic statistics from 2010 to 2014.
This document doesn’t appear to support the park services claims either.
At best the parks add seasonal employment which varies depending on government funding or shut downs. This is not a stable foundation of economic stability and even can cause a strain on the communities that employee a large number of seasonal workers because of an increase in unemployment and welfare benefits in the off season.
The statistics go on to show that the number one employers in San Juan County were private companies, local government, and state government. The Federal government is listed below all of these others and they were tied on the list with the figures for Self-Employed individuals. The most common industry was construction and the most common occupation was management except for farmers and farm managers.
Looking at these statistics the question is raised as to what data if any did the Park Services base their study on? Also what was the objective of the park service and the media for promoting what appears to be a fabricated study?
It appears that the Park Service is just trying to justify the national park system and the creation of more parks by padding the numbers. It seems that they would like you to believe that by having a national park or monument in your back yard things would be great for the local economy.
In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.
There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.
Another issue that this study didn’t address is the economic affect of so much federal land in San Juan County. San Juan County has a total of 5,077,120 acres of land which less than 10% of it is private property. The park service system controls around 1,466,267 acres of the total 5 million acres. The rest of the land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and some State Lands.
With so much land monopolized by the federal government the citizens are limited to the types of industry that they can take advantage of. The study should have looked at the affects that other industries could have had on San Juan County if they were NOT restricted by the federal government and the parks service such as oil and gas. Then compare them to the park service to really paint an accurate picture of who provides the best economic stability.
For example the City of Watford, North Dakota was a farm town of 1,500 people in 2010, now with the oil boom it has increased to an estimated 10,000 residents. CNNMoney put out an article on March 19, 2014 titled “North Dakota wants you: Seeks to fill 20,000 jobs”.
More than $200 million in oil-related taxes went to the state and local governments just last year, and the per capita income there doubled in just the past decade to $55,000.
San Juan County sits on a massive gold mine of natural resource like oil, gas, potash, etc. The park service study appears to have ignored all of this information. It seems rather clear that the park service is trying to mislead the public as to the importance of the park system in order to continue to pull on the peoples heart strings to create more parks and monuments.
This misinformation and manipulation is perpetuated through the local and national media who refuses to question the validity of studies like this. It is important that we don’t allow ourselves to be manipulated blindly we must look at “What is seen and what is not seen”.