It is one of the great myths promoted by special interests that wilderness does not provide economic benefits. Recent studies by leading economists show that Wilderness actually provides more economic benefits to communities located near them than do traditional extractive industries like logging and ranching.
As stated by Dr Thomas Power, Professor and chair of the University of Montana Department of Economics, in the International Journal of Wilderness, 2 [reprinted here by permission]:
"The commercial extractive uses of wildlands being considered for wilderness protection are usually marginal at best, being tied primarily to the uncertain development of speculative mineral resources or the harvesting of timber from low-productivity, high-cost sites. This type of extractive industry does not offer rural areas a reliable source of additional jobs and income. It has become a shrinking part of almost all areas' economies that are also plagued by fits of boom and bust. The future of our nonmetropolitan economies lies elsewhere. A prosperous future will not be found in specializing in "more of the same," that is additional reliance on extractive industry. In most of our nonmetropolitan communities adjacent to these wildlands, recreation, retirement, and "amenity-seeking" immigrants offer a much greater hope for ongoing economic development than wishful thinking about the recovery of the extractive industries and speculative mineral bonanzas that, at best, will be boom and bust.
Wilderness protection does not impoverish communities by locking up resources. Rather, it protects the economic future of those communities by preserving high quality natural environments that are increasing in demand across the nation. Wilderness protection does not threaten the ongoing development of nonmetropolitan economies in any significant way. Rather, it lays part of the long-run basis for their ongoing development by providing attractive places to live, work, and do business. Because of this, the economic problem posed by protected landscapes is not how to maintain local economic health, but almost the opposite: How to keep the economic activity attracted to areas adjacent to wilderness from undermining the environmental quality that wilderness protection seeks to assure in the first place."
Learn More about the Economic Benefits of Wilderness
Economic Benefits of Wilderness - by Dr. Thomas Michael Power, Professor and and chair of the University of Montana Department of Economics. (Link no longer available.)
Economic Values of Protecting Roadless Areas - a study prepared by Dr. John B. Loomis, PhD., Professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics at Colorado State University, including both national and California-specific data. (Link no longer available.)
Economic Benefits of Wilderness - by Dr. Pete Morton, resource economist the Wilderness Society. (Link no longer available.)
Wild Vintage - Winemakers Working to Protect California's Last Wild Places.