Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Economics and Finance

Department name when degree awarded


Committee Chair(s)

Donald L. Snyder


Donald L. Snyder


W. Cris Lewis


Christopher Fawson


This study investigated the existence of impacts on per capita incomes from the designations of wilderness areas. It developed one model to explain county-level per capita incomes in the six western states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, and Wyoming. This model examined effects of various factors believed to affect incomes, such as the industry mix of an economy, population densities, unemployment rates, government expenditures, and the existence of colleges, Indian reservations, and wilderness areas.

The analysis indicated that per capita incomes in these states did not fall by an increase in wilderness lands. In fact, counties in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Idaho experienced higher incomes if they contained wilderness areas. Counties in all states experienced higher incomes if a greater percentage of revenues came from the tourism and extractive industry sectors. However, the analysis indicated that, on average, increases in revenues from tourism increased incomes more than increases in revenues from extractive industries.

No definitive analysis could be performed to determine the difference between wilderness and extractive industry effects because the variables are not measured in the same units. However, the income elasticities were calculated with respect to the means of the relevant explanatory variables. The income elasticity with respect to changes in the extractive industry was the highest elasticity computed, as extractive industry mean values were much larger than the other mean values.

As in all econometric studies, estimated coefficients suggest relationships, not causality. Results from this study in particular cannot be taken out of context and interpreted without close examination of all factors pertaining to the stated results.



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