National Monument Downsizing Threatens Public Lands, American Economy

JACKSON, Wyo.--()--Saturday’s Public Lands Day celebrates America’s crown jewel: more than 618 million acres set aside for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

These lands are held in trust for the American people and managed by the federal government.

Following a leaked memo from the Department of the Interior, which recommends resizing as many as 10 national monuments or opening them up to mining, logging and industrial purposes, some are concerned that trust is in danger of being violated.

“We’ve been talking to business and civic leaders in communities adjacent to national monuments around the country,” said Christian Beckwith, founder and director of SHIFT, an annual conference held in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that convenes stakeholders in America’s public lands legacy. “Across the board, they fear changes in national monument boundaries could have a negative impact on their bottom lines.”

This year, as part of its focus on the business case for public lands, SHIFT is convening mayors, the heads of chambers of commerce, business leaders and outdoor recreationists to discuss how investments in outdoor recreation and public lands affect their communities. Keynote addresses, workshops and panel discussions will explore the impacts of public lands, including national monuments, on local economies.

Dave Conine, former Utah state director for USDA Rural Development and one of SHIFT’s featured panelists, has witnessed the significant benefits a national monument designation makes on local communities.

“Since President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase as a national monument, there has been a dramatic increase in new construction and local business development,” said Conine. “This is all related to the increase in tourism and the economic diversification that follows the visitor-based economy.”

Lucas St. Clair, president of Eliotsville Plantation, Inc. and founder of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, agrees. The region adjacent to the monument has experienced significant economic benefits in just the first year since designation.

“The monument has led to increased economic stability in the region,” said St. Clair. “To threaten the conservation and recreational resource with timber harvesting puts in jeopardy the very thing that is helping the region at such an important time.”

Research supports their concern. Headwaters Economics has studied the local economies surrounding 17 national monuments and found all showed continued or improved growth in key economic indicators.

Nationally, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs each year, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

SHIFT invited Interior Secretary Zinke to open this year’s event and outline his vision for the public lands under his stewardship. His office acknowledged receipt of the invitation, but issued no further response.

This year’s SHIFT will convene business owners, outdoor and conservation advocates, tribal leaders and land managers to explore ways to steward those 618 million acres—the 129 national monuments, more than 400 national parks, 560 national wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, national marine monuments, national battlefields and wildernesses—set aside for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

For more information and a complete 2017 SHIFT Festival schedule, visit


SHIFT (Shaping How we Invest For Tomorrow) is an annual festival that explores issues at the intersection of conservation, outdoor recreation and cultural relevancy. It is a project of The Center for Jackson Hole, whose mission is to strengthen the coalition of interests devoted to our public lands. Join the SHIFT movement! Sign up for our community at, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Kerri Dellisanti

Release Summary

SHIFT is where stakeholders will convene to make a difference and support public lands


Kerri Dellisanti