Policies affecting the use of public lands can have direct consequences for industries that rely on outputs from those lands. In recent years, environmental concerns have prompted a revisiting of the policies governing the use of those lands. Subsequently, alternative policies have been proposed that would move the management of some public lands away from the concepts of "multiple use" to those of limited access or wilderness designations, ultimately eliminating many consumptive uses on those lands. Thus, for industries and regional economies relying on public resources, it is necessary to (1) draw attention to the economic importance of those lands, (2) identify the potential consequences of changes in their management and use, and (3) develop plans and options for the future use of those resources. Billings County, in western North Dakota, is comprised of about 50 percent public land. Natural resource use plays a critical role in the county's economy. Public lands provide important inputs for local industries in Billings County, such as oil and natural gas production, livestock grazing, wildlife production, scenic attractions, and outdoor recreation. Energy and agriculture are the largest industries, accounting for 88 percent of all "new wealth" in the county. The remaining activity comes from tourism and federal activities. Overall, the size of the county's economic base has been decreasing, paralleling declines in the energy industry. The economic effect of potential changes in local industries was demonstrated by changing the level of economic base activities in key industries and using input/output analysis to show the subsequent secondary effects on the regional economy. From the information provided, Billings County can determine the economic consequences of changes in the use of the county's natural resources.


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