IEDC Session Argues Protected Lands More Valuable Than Resource Development

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) kicked off their annual conference right here in Anchorage Sunday afternoon. For those not familiar with the IEDC, it is the largest organization of economic development professionals in the world. Holding their conference in Anchorage provides Alaskan’s a unique opportunity to see and learn cutting edge techniques in the economic development practice and hear the latest in where the practice is headed.

One of the first sessions out of the gate was titled “Discovering Economic Development Opportunity in Protected Lands.” As you can imagine this title drew interest from plenty of Alaska based economic developers including those from Juneau, Ketchikan, Anchorage, and several from rural Alaska.  

Those who showed up didn’t get exactly what they bargained for, however. Instead of a session primarily focused on how to get the federal government to work with states and local communities on things like resource development projects, the session focused on arguments for why protecting federal lands from those sorts of activities provided greater economic value.

Below is the presentation from Kellie Danielson, President and CEO of  Montana West & Flathead County Economic Development where she makes a data based argument that “protecting” land from uses such as oil and gas development, timber harvesting, and mining provides greater economic value to her area of Montana.  She sites this study  and the group Headwaters Economics in her presentation.

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Regardless of what you think of this argument, and I know Congressman Don Young and U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan would bristle at it, it would be wise for Alaskans to listen and take heed. As Ms. Danielson points out, over 100 economist wrote a letter to President Obama encouraging him to “invest” in protected lands.

We in Alaska are likely to be facing some form of this argument as justification for federal protected lands policy in Alaska in the coming years.

Having the opportunity to hear, question, and digest such arguments is exactly what the IEDC conference is all about.

Author’s Note-I’ll post the associated slide show when it becomes available.

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