The Mountain West is home to huge swaths of public land. A new web-based tool is now showing people exactly where that land is and which agency is managing it.
The tool comes from Montana-based Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonprofit research group. It took the most recent data from the U.S. Geological Survey and created interactive maps and charts that allow users to see how their land is managed.
Ray Rasker is the firm's executive director. He says these protected lands offer economic benefits to local communities.
"In general, the more public land a county has, the more growth in per capita income, employment and population," he says.
In urban counties, public lands offer unique recreation opportunities, something Rasker says offers economic benefits. But, urban areas aren't the only ones to see these positives, he says.
"You have other communities that are very rural and very isolated, and the role that public lands play in those places might be less about recreation and wilderness, and there might be more related to grazing or resource extraction," he says.
You can explore the tool at headwaterseconomics.org.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.
Copyright 2019 KUNR. For more, visit kunr.org.