and Economy in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
It is generally, and falsely, assumed
that the economy of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is largely
based on resource use and extraction such as timber, mining and
ranching. Power (1991) completed an economic study of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming
counties that are part of the GYE, from 1969 to 1987. His data showed that the income base shifted
significantly from extraction activities to service industries
(hotels, medical centers, government, real estate, insurance,
finance) and recreation.
fell from being 25% of the wages and job base in 1969 to 1/6 of
the wages, and 1/8 of the jobs in 1987, while the population,
employment and total income continued to grow.
grew from 53% to 62% in that same time period.
These trends continue through the 1990s (see at the end
of this page websites for: Census and Economic Information Center
(MT), Div. of Economic Analysis (WY),
Idaho Dept. of Commerce).
Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding National Forests
recreation is another important industry to the local economy,
much more so than resource extraction.
Based on employment, recreation is responsible for 83%
of the forest-related jobs, while timber accounts for only 11%.
Similarly, comparing the ecomonic value of these activities,
recreation contributes over 80% on average, and timber only 5%.
Non-industry wages: In addition, by 1987 only half of the personal
income in the region (57 cents of every dollar) came from all
labor industries combined (export, recreation, service, etc). The other half (43 cents for every dollar)
comes from self-employment and, as Power puts it, “footloose”
income such as retirement pensions; called so because they are
not tied to any location and therefore follow its recipient.
Footloose income is made up of 80% retirement pensions
and 20% dividend, rent, and investment payments.
These facts all point to increasing numbers of people migrating
to the region. (Figure 1.)
|Figure 2. Composition of
total employment in the GY area, 1969-1987. “Export industries” consists of mining, oil
and gas exploration and development, agriculture, and manufacturing. “Local services” are retail trade, state and local government, finance,
insurance,real estate and services. Source the same as Figure 1.
A guidebook for open-space conservation in Wyoming states
that from 1990-1995, the Mountain States exceeded the national
rate of growth and grew much faster as a group than did the Plains
States. Migration accounted
for about two thirds of that increase in the three fastest growing
states. Economic well-being,
including flexibility and choice of work locations in many professions,
has allowed people to migrate to areas with a perceived higher
quality of living. For
example, during the booming 1970s, the counties surrounding Yellowstone
grew at a faster rate than their neighboring counties.
Even in the depressed 1980s, the counties surrounding Yellowstone
still grew 33% faster than other counties in those same states. This willingness and ability to relocate has combined with other
social and demographic changes to create a strong incentive for
private landowners to subdivide their land and accommodate new
people while improving their own economic well being.
Land value: Several local factors have also increased the
potential for land sales, subdivision and rural development. These
factors include declining revenues from oil and gas and other
extractive industries, and cyclical agricultural markets. At the
same time, land values are increasing. These conditions create
a difficult situation for some landowners, who may be land rich
and cash poor. A farmer
or rancher has no retirement pension. Any long term security lies
solely in the equity of the operation and the ability to sell
or transfer agricultural lands.
Historically, that has meant passing the property to the
next generation. Now, it may mean conservation easements or subdivisions.
Many are faced with selling their property due to high property
taxes, no heir to take over a farm, or illness that changes their
ability to farm or ranch.
and Costs of Sprawl:
Taken together, these
forces create an atmosphere that is conducive to land subdivision
and rural sprawl. Events which actually trigger the sale and development
of open lands may be motivated by profit or economic survival,
but are often stimulated by some type of individual or family
hardship such as health problems, lack of a retirement income,
divorce, or inter-generational tax burdens. Unfortunately, once
these factors contribute to helter skelter land subdivision, there
is often a domino effect as successive landowners cash in on their
land assets. A nearby subdivision may compromise the appeal of
maintaining a working ranch and cause other adjacent landowners
to consider subdividing their lands when they otherwise may not
have considered such actions.
Yet little attention
is payed to the economic and ecologic burdens of land subdivision
and rural sprawl. Haggerty (1996) stated that conversion of agricultural
land to non-agricultural uses reduces local agricultural output,
employment, income and purchases.
Public services and infrastructure are required to meet
the needs of new arrivals. Local governments need information
that allows them to project population changes, the number of
public employees who must be hired, and the kind of public facilities
needed to serve the changing populations.
For example, The Greater
Yellowstone Coalition and the Local Government Center at Montana
State University, along with county officials and local ranchers,
studied the real economic impacts of different land uses in Gallatin
County, Montana. Using simple fiscal analysis, the study showed
that "for every dollar residential property pays into local
government coffers, it demands $1.47 in direct services. Conversely,
agricultural and open space only requires 25 cents in services
for every dollar it contributes, commercial land 18 cents and
industrial land 7 cents.
The study also found
that over half of the local government revenues come from property
taxes. It might be expected that an increase in the
number of residential properties would increase the tax base and
therefore increase the revenues for expenditure on improved services
and possibly lower taxes at the same time. Nevertheless, according
to this study and others, as more farm and range land is subdivided,
the tax rates rise and the infrastructure (such as roads, schools
and law enforcement) is put under greater burdens. And, local
governments may be stressed by the increased demand for direct
government services such as public education, road maintenance,
law enforcement, noxious weed control, and others.
See below for some county
and state level economic trends and forcasts in different industries.
Wyoming State Division of Economic Analysis:
Largest Landowners (of 13 listed) are the US
BLM (27.9%), USFS (14.7%), State (5.7%), then NPS (3.8%).
Total federal ownership is 49%, state 5% and private is
Largest Employers (of 19 listed), 7 are mining,
5 are retail trade, 2 are manufacturing, 2 are service, 2 are
TCPU (transportation, communication and pubic utilities), and
one is FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate).
Labor Force and Employment forecast for 1998
– 2008 in Wyoming: The
10-year change in the number of employed is 10.8% overall, so
an industry below that is decreasing its workforce, and anything
above that would be increasing in employment. Services has the highest increase in labor
force for the 10-years between 1998 and 2008.
Services were only 2 of the largest employers, but apparently
are the fastest growing. They
include Grand Teton Lodge Co., and WY Medical Center Inc.
Retail trade includes Hamilton Stores in Yellowstone, Mini
Mart, Safeway, Sugerland Enterprises and WalMart.
|Civilian Labor Force
|Number of Employed
|Number of Unemployed
|Non-Agricultural Wage and Salary Employment
|State & Local
Source: Wyoming Department
of Employment, Research and Planning, "Wyoming's Largest
Employers: June 1997, The Gems of Wyoming Industry", First
Montana State Census and Economic Information Center
Park County MT: The largest
industries in 1998 were services, 32.2 percent of earnings; retail
trade, 14.0 percent; and state and local government, 11.2 percent.
Of the industries that accounted for at least 5 percent of earnings
in 1998, the slowest growing from 1997 to 1998 was durable goods
manufacturing (7.4 percent of earnings in 1998), which decreased
4.7 percent; the fastest was construction (10.3 percent of earnings
in 1998), which increased 6.0 percent.
Gallatin County MT: The largest industries in 1998 were services,
25.3 percent of earnings; state and local government, 18.1 percent;
and retail trade, 14.3 percent. Of the industries that accounted
for at least 5 percent of earnings in 1998, the slowest growing
from 1997 to 1998 was state and local government, which increased
3.6 percent; the fastest was durable goods manufacturing (7.0
percent of earnings in 1998), which increased 15.2 percent.
Department of Commerce: Trends in the 1990s:
(Statewide data only)
sales revenue increased 75% between 1990 and 1998.
Lodging sales trends in 1998 were strongest in southwest
Idaho and weakest in north Idaho (+18.2% and -1.6%).
value of total Idaho exports increased rapidly with a 94% gain
between 1990 and 1995. With a precipitous decline in semiconductor
prices since 1996 and deterioration in the worth of agricultural
products, there was a 29% decline in export value between 1995
and 1998. Data through
September 1999 indicates a rebound in export values over the previous
year in excess of 30%. Construction: Building construction value has increased
by 142% between 1990 and 1998. The 72% growth in construction
employment in Idaho is the sixth highest in the nation. Strength in the single-family residential market
and a rebound in commercial construction resulted in a record
for construction value in 1998. 1999 could show a 10% percent
increase over 1998.
at top: maps
can be acquired from the Greater Yellowstone Area Data Clearinghouse