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News Article | April 27, 2017

How are communities across the American West changing? Where are the growth opportunities and risks? If you’re an entrepreneur or policymaker looking to the future of the region, pioneering Headwaters Economics may be a key ally for you. Here, Keith Hammonds, President of Solutions Journalism Network, catches up with Ray Rasker, Headwaters founder and CEO, to learn why. Keith Hammonds: Ray, can you first tell us how Headwaters got started? Ray Rasker: We felt there was room for an independent, nonpartisan organization that would support decision makers with rapid turnaround research on rural communities. Think of the big challenges in the West and beyond – wildfires, energy policy, public lands – these are complicated issues with a lot of layers. Policymakers and entrepreneurs too often lack accessible data and analysis to help them make sense of the issues and what’s coming. So Headwaters has national tools that are easy, free, and tell you all sorts of incredible things, like the economic profile system and the populations at risk tools. They’re a huge timesaver. Hammonds: How does this play out in real life? Rasker: Take wildfires. This is a big, costly issue – the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies spend about $3 billion per year fighting wildland fires in the West and elsewhere as the fire threat spreads. That’s three times the amount from a decade ago. A lot of people know a lot about wildfires but the knowledge is compartmentalized, so we brought together 20 experts dealing with the issue in a closed-door solutions forum in Jackson, Wyoming, with no press. We looked closely at all the data and arrived at 10 creative solutions including one that provides planning support to help communities significantly reduce fire risk. We followed up with a pilot study, and a year later came back to federal policymakers and said, “Here’s what this looks like on the ground.” The planning support idea is now our Community Planning for Wildfire program and being implemented in 17 communities in the West. Hammonds:  Let’s talk about the reigning economic narrative of the West that is anchored in the decline of extractive industries and resulting dislocation of jobs. Is this the right narrative? Rasker:  No, it’s not where the big numbers are. Less than five percent of personal income in the rural West is from mining, oil and gas, and timber. But the perception is that it's much, much bigger than that, right? So this narrative that the West is resource dependent has hijacked the conversation we should be having, which is: why are some places thriving while others are declining?

Mills D.,Stratus Consulting Inc. | Schwartz J.,Huntington University | Lee M.,Huntington University | Sarofim M.,U.S. Environmental Protection Agency | And 4 more authors.
Climatic Change | Year: 2015

This paper applies city-specific mortality relationships for extremely hot and cold temperatures for 33 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the United States to develop mortality projections for historical and potential future climates. These projections, which cover roughly 100 million of 310 million U.S. residents in 2010, highlight a potential change in health risks from uncontrolled climate change and the potential benefits of a greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation policy. Our analysis reveals that projected mortality from extremely hot and cold days combined increases significantly over the 21st century because of the overwhelming increase in extremely hot days. We also find that the evaluated GHG mitigation policy could substantially reduce this risk. These results become more pronounced when accounting for projected population changes. These results challenge arguments that there could be a mortality benefit attributable to changes in extreme temperatures from future warming. This finding of a net increase in mortality also holds in an analog city sensitivity analysis that incorporates a strong adaptation assumption. While our results do not address all sources of uncertainty, their scale and scope highlight one component of the potential health risks of unmitigated climate change impacts on extreme temperatures and draw attention to the need to continue to refine analytical tools and methods for this type of analysis. © 2014, The Author(s).

Schwartz C.C.,U.S. Geological Survey | Gude P.H.,Headwaters Economics | Landenburger L.,U.S. Geological Survey | Haroldson M.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | Podruzny S.,U.S. Geological Survey
Wildlife Biology | Year: 2012

Exurban development is consuming wildlife habitat within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with potential consequences to the long-term conservation of grizzly bears Ursus arctos. We assessed the impacts of alternative future land-use scenarios by linking an existing regression-based simulation model predicting rural development with a spatially explicit model that predicted bear survival. Using demographic criteria that predict population trajectory, we portioned habitats into either source or sink, and projected the loss of source habitat associated with four different build out (new home construction) scenarios through 2020. Under boom growth, we predicted that 12 km2 of source habitat were converted to sink habitat within the Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone (RZ), 189 km2 were converted within the current distribution of grizzly bears outside of the RZ, and 289 km2 were converted in the area outside the RZ identified as suitable grizzly bear habitat. Our findings showed that extremely low densities of residential development created sink habitats. We suggest that tools, such as those outlined in this article, in addition to zoning and subdivision regulation may prove more practical, and the most effective means of retaining large areas of undeveloped land and conserving grizzly bear source habitat will likely require a landscape-scale approach. We recommend a focus on land conservation efforts that retain open space (easements, purchases and trades) coupled with the implementation of 'bear community programmes' on an ecosystem wide basis in an effort to minimize human-bear conflicts, minimize management-related bear mortalities associated with preventable conflicts and to safeguard human communities. Our approach has application to other species and areas, and it has illustrated how spatially explicit demographic models can be combined with models predicting land-use change to help focus conservation priorities. © Wildlife Biology, NKV.

Gude P.H.,Headwaters Economics | Jones K.,ObjectiveStat Consulting | Rasker R.,Headwaters Economics | Greenwood M.C.,Montana State University
International Journal of Wildland Fire | Year: 2013

This paper uses wildfires in the Sierra Nevada area of California to estimate the relationship between housing and fire suppression costs. We investigated whether the presence of homes was associated with increased costs of firefighting after controlling for the effects of potential confounding variables including fire size, weather, terrain and human factors such as road access. This paper investigates wildfires in a way that other published studies have not; we analysed costs at the daily level, retaining information that would have been lost had we aggregated the data. We used linear mixed models to estimate the effects of homes on daily costs while incorporating within-fire variation. We conclude that the expected increase in the log daily cost with each unit increase in the log count of homes within 6 miles (∼9.7km) of an active fire is 0.07 (P≤0.005). The findings of this study are in agreement with most other previous empirical studies that have investigated the relationship between fire suppression costs and housing using cumulative fire costs and more generalised data on home locations. The study adds to mounting evidence that increases in housing lead to increases in fire suppression costs. © 2013 IAWF.

Gude P.H.,Headwaters Economics | Rasker R.,Headwaters Economics | Jones K.L.,Objectivestat Consulting | Haggerty J.H.,Headwaters Economics | Greenwood M.C.,Montana State University
Growth and Change | Year: 2012

The U.SWest has gone through many periods of economic boom and bust, most of which were associated with rapid rises and declines in commodity marketsThe recent structural shift toward a primarily service-based economy begs the question of whether the driving forces behind the cycles of boom and bust also may be shifting away from commodities toward people and their resourcesThis paper explores several factors that contributed to growth in the 1990s and 2000s: asking whether these factors created any advantages or disadvantages during the most recent recession and whether the shift away from commodity production to a knowledge- and human capital-intensive economy has implications for how local areas experience the boom-bust cycle. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Haggerty J.,Montana State University | Gude P.H.,Headwaters Economics | Rasker R.,Headwaters Economics
Energy Economics | Year: 2014

The purpose of the study is to evaluate the relationships between oil and natural gas specialization and socioeconomic well-being during the period 1980 to 2011 in a large sample of counties within the six major oil- and gas-producing states in the interior U.S. West: Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. The effects of participation in the early 1980s oil and gas boom and long-term specialization were considered as possible drivers of socioeconomic outcomes. Generalized estimating equations were used to regress 11 measures of economic growth and quality of life on oil and gas specialization while accounting for various confounding factors including degree of access to markets, initial socioeconomic conditions in 1980, and dependence on other economic sectors. Long-term oil and gas specialization is observed to have negative effects on change in per capita income, crime rate, and education rate. Participation in the early 1980s boom was positively associated with change in per capita income; however the positive effect decreases the longer counties remain specialized in oil and gas. Our findings contribute to a broader public dialogue about the consequences of resource specialization involving oil and natural gas and call into question the assumption that long-term oil and gas development confers economic advantages upon host communities. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Rasker R.,Headwaters Economics | Gude P.H.,Headwaters Economics
Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy | Year: 2013

The purpose of the study is to determine whether protected federal lands in the nonmetropolitan U.S. West are associated with increased or decreased economic performance. A subset of federal lands managed by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or the Fish and Wildlife Service was considered protected and primarily managed for conservation. Generalized estimating equations were used to regress ten economic measures on protected land area while accounting for various confounding factors including presence of other natural amenities and degree of access to markets. Three economic measures were positively associated with protected public lands: per capita income (2010), growth in per capita income (1990-2010), and growth in per capita investment income (1990-2010). The study finds that, on average, counties with national parks, wilderness, and other forms of protected public lands benefit through increased economic performance. © 2013 MCRSA. All rights reserved.

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