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Conservation of land and water, as well as the development of parks and recreational areas, not only improve quality of life for human beings and other ecosystems, but also create jobs. Using an input-output model, I estimate that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a public fund for conservation and park development at the federal, state, and local levels, can support between 17 and 31 jobs for each $1 million of spending. Conservation-related spending creates many more jobs than alternatives such as oil and gas or aviation.
Employment Impacts of Conservation Spending
Heidi Peltier, PhD
Boston University
May 2020
Nature’s restorative power is particularly important at a time of rapidly growing unemployment and
financial hardship. As a country, we have important decisions to make regarding how to use national
funds now, more than ever, it is important that we make budgetary decisions that not only improve
quality of life and sustain the activities we care about, but also that create jobs. In the month of April
2020 alone, more than 20 million people lost their jobs in the U.S., resulting in an unemployment rate of
14.7 percent, the highest seen since the Great Depression.1
Conservation of land and water is generally an area with broad support, as nature appeals not only to
lovers of natural beauty but also recreational enthusiasts, including hikers, park-goers, hunters, and
anglers. Further, conservation creates jobs. For each $1 million spent in conservation activities, between
17 and 31 jobs are supported depending on the industry where the investment is made, as shown in
Table 1. Alternative uses of the funds would, in many cases, created fewer jobs, as we see in Table 2.
For instance, Oil and Gas supports 8 jobs per $1 million spending, while Aviation supports 8.4.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is the primary federal grant program to conserve land
and invest in state, local, and national parks, trails and natural areas. LWCF funds purchase of land, and
directly invests in development of parks, trails, boat launches and campgrounds at the state and local
level.2 LWCF has the potential to support thousands of jobs in communities throughout the country.
For each $100 million of LWCF funding, between 1,680 and 3,080 jobs could be supported.
The model used to estimate the number of jobs created by economic activities such as conservation and
park use is an “input-output” (I-O) model, which captures production, sales, and supply chains
throughout the economy. I-O models are built using purchase and sales data from businesses
throughout the country, showing how they purchase inputs of goods and services and then sell their
goods and services to consumers, to other businesses, to government agencies, and in some cases as
exports. Input-output models are a standard tool used to study the economic impacts of spending
changes and are included among the national accounts of many countries.3
In assessing the impacts of additional LWCF funding, the input-output model can be used to estimate
the increased number of jobs needed to meet the increased spending in impacted industries. The LWCF
leads to job creation through both purchases of land that can then be used for conservation or
recreational activities and development of state and local park infrastructure. For example, as spending
increases to develop parks for resurfacing fields, building trailheads, creating parking areas jobs are
created in construction as well as in the manufacturing industries that supply construction materials and
the service industries used by parks and construction industries, such as food services, trucking, and
1 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). “The Employment Situation April 2020.” Available
2 For more details, see
3 For example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the U.S. releases a national set of input-output accounts, see
accounting. More generally, “direct jobs” are created as funds are used to hire employees in the parks,
conservation areas, or construction firms, and “indirect jobs” are created through the supply chain.
“Induced jobs” are those that are created as the workers in direct and indirect jobs spend their earnings
on housing, food, healthcare, education, and other industries.
Preserving land for conservation, reforestation, continued and enhanced biodiversity, as well as for
various outdoor recreational activities, not only ensures continued access to nature for various species,
including human nature enthusiasts, but also supports a variety of jobs. Funding conservation of land
and water is one of the many solutions we need to recover the economy and our quality of life in the
coming years.
Table 1: Conservation and related jobs per $1 million spending
Support Activities for Forestry4
Conservation lands (including parks and
conservation areas)
Environmental and Technical Consulting7
Source: Calculated by author using IMPLAN 3.0 with 2018 U.S. national data
Table 2: Job creation potential of other areas, per $1 million spending
Road and Bridge Repair10
Solar power - design, manufacture, and install12
Oil and Gas13
Source: Calculated by author using IMPLAN 3.0 with 2018 U.S. national data
4 “Support activities for forestry” is IMPLAN sector 19 and includes support activities for both agriculture and forestry. Forestry support
includes forest restoration, forest thinning, forest management, and other related services.
5 “Forestry” is IMPLAN sector 15 and includes gathering, seeding, growing, harvesting, extracting, and other forestry-related activities.
6 “Conservation lands” is IMPLAN sector 501 and includes national, state, and provincial parks; conservation areas; bird sanctuaries; zoos and
other animal parks; botanical gardens; nature centers; and other nature-based tourist attractions.
7 “Environment and Technical Consulting” is IMPLAN sector 463 and includes services for ecological restoration, environmental reclamation,
environmental consulting, wetland restoration, and various other environmental and energy-related consulting services.
8 “Hunting-Trapping” is IMPLAN sector 18 and includes trapping, preserves for hunting and fishing, and game retreats
9 “Fishing” is IMPLAN sector 17 and includes all types of freshwater and saltwater commercial fishing activities
10Road and Bridge Repairis IMPLAN sector 62
11Finance includes20% each: Nondepository credit intermediation and related (439); Securities and commodities contracts (440); Monetary
authorities and depository credit intermediaries (441); Other financial investment activities (442); and Funds, trusts, and other financial vehicles
12Solarincludes design, manufacturing, and installation activities, and is based on Garrett-Peltier 2017. It includes the following IMPLAN
categories: 30% Construction of new power and communication structures (52); 17.5% each Fabricated Metal Mfg (236), Semiconductor and
related mfg (307), All other misc electrical equipment and component mfg (339), and Environmental and other technical consulting services
13Oil and Gasincludes 20% each: Oil and Gas Extraction (20); Drilling Oil and Gas Wells (35); Support Activities for Oil and Gas (36); Natural
Gas Distribution (48); and Petroleum Refineries (154)
14Aviationis IMPLAN sector 414
... For investments in nature-based solutions, we found one study (Peltier 2020) that compared job creation from investments in restoration and other forestry and agriculture support activities to investments in oil and gas. A previous estimate of restoration job creation compared with fossil fuel job creation from Garrett-Peltier and Pollin (2010) is often cited, but we confirmed that the newer analysis from Peltier (2020) should be used instead. ...
... We hoped to find studies that compared job creation in nature-based solutions to job creation from traditional crop agriculture and livestock, logging, or other forms of traditional land use but were unable to find any observations where the comparison could be made within that same study using the same geographical scope, timeframe, and methodology. In Table A8 we present data from Peltier (2020) plus six studies that provide data on jobs created per $1 million but without comparisons to unsustainable investments. We caution against comparing these numbers to job creation numbers from other studies that use different countries/ regions, timeframes, or methodologies. ...
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This paper compares job creation per dollar from various types of green investments vs. unsustainable investments. It also explores how to promote good jobs that have fair wages, job security, opportunities for career growth, safe working conditions, and are accessible for all.
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