National monuments are an engine for economic growth

The Hill
By Nancy Pfund
April 19, 2016

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.