Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The American West - From Oil to Tourism

Bloomberg has been investigating the shift from oil and gas extraction to outdoor recreation and tourism in the American West. Outdoor recreational pursuits now contribute more to the U.S.'s GDP than mining, oil and gas. The outdoor recreation economy also tends not to be so susceptible to the boom and bust cycle of the energy industry.

The boom and bust nature of the energy industry is illustrated in The American West Bets on Outdoor Tourism When Big Oil Leaves using an interactive map. The animated map visualizes the numbers of people employed in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction in every year from 2000 to 2017. The map provides a stark illustration of the boom and bust nature of the industry. This cyclical nature has a huge impact on local economies. While boom times are great for employment according to Robin Brown, of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, "when the bust comes, it takes a decade to recover".

This is partly why many areas in the American West are seeking to diversify and support tourism and the outdoor recreation economy. The Bloomberg article includes another interactive map which shows that the West is blessed by the presence of national parks, conservation areas and wildlife refuges. These are a huge boon to the outdoor economy. According to Headwaters Economics from 1970 to 2015 the counties "with the most federal land saw faster population growth, and higher growth in incomes and jobs, than counties with the least".

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