NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Prospect of a Return to Extractive Industries Buoys West's Economic Hopes

June 14, 2002

The Clinton administration locked up many federal lands in western states and prevented mineral development, leaving many small towns dependent solely on tourism and recreation. But the Bush administration has signaled a desire for policies that would unleash extractive industries.

Here are a few of the actions that are once again opening up the West:

  • The administration is settling a spate of lawsuits over endangered species by withdrawing plans to protect large swaths of habitat.
  • A forest management plan in the Pacific northwest is being overhauled in part because is has prevented logging.
  • Rolling back Clinton administration moves to prohibit roads and commercial development on 58.5 million acres of national forests.
  • Exploring ways to give local residents more control over national forests and monuments that are owned by all Americans.

Jobs in natural resource industries now account for less than 4 percent of employment in western states -- compared to 10 percent three decades ago. Whether the Bush administration's plans will help reverse that trend remains to be seen. But many Westerners who participated in "sagebrush rebellions" against the Clinton lock-out-development policies have their fingers crossed.

Source: Tom Kenworthy, "In War Over the West, Industry Gets an Edge," USA Today, June 14, 2002.


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