I heard the interviews on NPR this morning with (Grant County Commissioner Gabriel) Ramos and (Gila National Forest Supervisor Kelly) Russell, and I am interested in the economic effects of the proposed Travel Management Plan, as well. A good portion of my professional work over the past ten years has been in economic analyses of forest restoration projects and the utilization of woody biomass and wood products. Translating environmental effects of forest activities into economic terms is part of what my company does in collaboration with many other entities across the U.S.
One of the problems in doing such analyses arises from a scarcity of information, as well as interpolating from environmental effects to dollar values. There are methodologies, but they require fairly long-term data acquisition efforts and complex analysis. It is a reasonable assumption that the proposed TMP will have positive environmental impacts, but the GNF did not attempt to evaluate those benefits in economic terms. It is also reasonable to assume that there are some negative economic impacts presently resulting from travel related activities on the GNF, which are described in the EIS. I would like to see a full economic/environmental effects analysis, but it would cost a lot of money. It would support the need for a travel management plan, of that there is no question.
The positive economic effects of recreation activities in forest lands have a longer history of evaluation and the most common analysis tool is IMPLAN. The data for running IMPLAN are most commonly accumulated by counties or municipalities, or at a macro level state governments.
The GNF did an economic analysis of the proposed TMP in the EIS, a 44-page Social and Economic Report. According to the report:
“Data for the social and economic specialist report are primarily from the following sources:
1 U.S. Forest Service, National Visitor Use Monitoring (NVUM), 2006 data.
2 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census: 1980, 1990, and 2000 Census of Population and Housing; 2009 Population Estimates Program; State and County QuickFacts.
3 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Accounts.
4 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5 University of New Mexico, Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
6 Headwaters Economics, Economic Profile System.
7 Minnesota IMPLAN Group, IMPLAN Professional Version 2.0, 2006 Data Package.
8 U.S. Forest Service, Recreation Economic Contribution Application (RECA).
9 Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments.
10 Public input gathered from public meetings and comments.
An exhaustive list of data sources is available in the References sections.
IMPLAN Professional Version 2.0 and the Recreation Economic Contribution Application (RECA) were used to estimate changes to employment and income under the various alternatives. These tools are explained in detail in the Environmental Consequences section.”
The analysis did not find that there would be any measurable negative business-related economic effects resulting from implementation of the preferred TMP option. My businesses that rely upon the GNF - Gila WoodNet, Gila Wood Products, and Restoration Technologies - would not be negatively affected by the proposed TMP.
I note that there is no data from Grant County, or counter assessment. Does the county have any data showing that negative economic effects will likely occur from implementing the TMP? What other analysis do the commissioners think the GNF should do to satisfy their concerns? What analysis do they think Grant County should be responsible for in this regard?
Silver City, NM