By Nancy Pfund -
Since taking office, President Obama has affirmed his commitment to America’s public lands by using his authority under the Antiquities Act to create 23 national monuments, including Basin and Range in Nevada’s southeastern slope, Berryessa Snow Mountain in California’s Bay Area and, most recently, the Castle Mountains, Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow national monuments, encompassing 1.8 million acres of the California desert.
As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I welcome the permanent protection of these monuments, not only because it will help ensure the longevity of our natural and cultural treasures but also because of the economic opportunities the monuments will help to inspire, including among Bay Area companies. Permanent protection for the desert means that my companies’ employees will have enhanced access to these unique lands for hiking, biking, camping, hunting and other outdoor activities, which help them maintain a work-life balance, recharge and boost their creativity.
My portfolio companies engage in team-building exercises in the outdoors; they host employee family events there and encourage employees to experience the spectacular landscapes that provide the inspiration those employees bring back to work with them. In this sense, conservation isn’t just good for business growth — it actually fuels teamwork and innovation.
I’ve also seen firsthand that successful, driven employees, especially in the tech sector, place a high value on outdoor recreation, making proximity to public lands and national monuments a major selling point for companies that want to recruit the best and brightest employees — a critical requirement for success.
In additional to fueling the growth of entrepreneurial companies, monuments give a shot in the arm to local economies. A new report from Small Business Majority released last week shows that the national monuments designated by the president generate $156 million in annual revenue, drive approximately $58 million in labor income per year and create more than 1,800 jobs per year, particularly in the outdoor recreation and tourism industries. And another study by Headwaters Economics found that communities in the West have $4,360 higher per capita income for every 100,000 acres of protected public lands.
As an investor, I know that public lands are essential to the bottom line of my company and the growth of our economy. So I congratulate not only the president but also Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the community leaders who worked so hard to make these national monument designations possible. Protection for the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains national monuments did not happen overnight; it came about as a result of many years of dialogue and collaborative action on the part of California residents, local businesses, veterans, faith leaders, Latino groups and conservation and recreation organizations. The designations owe much to the efforts of Sen. Feinstein, who fought for years to pass legislation in support of a permanent designation for the lands but was hamstrung by a deeply divided Congress.
Conservation is not a red issue, blue issue or even green issue; it is an American issue. Our public lands are the embodiment of our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit. By protecting them, we are helping to preserve our heritage for future generations.
Pfund is the co-chairwoman of the Conservation for Economic Growth Coalition, an advocacy group made up of founders of fast-growing entrepreneurial companies and venture capitalists. She is the founder and managing partner of DBL Investors, a venture capital firm located in San Francisco.