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.