March 11, 1998



Social / Economics Report Released and Comment Period Extended

The Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project has completed and released a report on the economic and social conditions of several hundred communities in the Pacific Northwest. Project leaders also announced an additional 30-day extension of the public comment period on the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Draft Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) prepared by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. The new comment deadline of May 6, 1998 will allow additional time for people to read the report which characterizes economic and social conditions and estimates effects on those communities from the alternatives of the Draft EISs.

"This report has been published in response to the need identified by the Eastside Coalition of Counties and in the 1998 Interior Appropriations Act for a more complete characterization of communities and effects," said Martha Hahn, Chairperson of the Projects Executive Steering Committee. "In order to get a more complete picture of these communities, it was necessary to look at them at the community level in addition to the basin-wide level portrayed in the Projects Scientific Assessment and Draft EISs."

The report contains an analysis of the economic and social conditions of communities in a 144 million acre region addressed in the Draft EISs. The analysis provides additional data on economic and social conditions and impacts based on the management alternatives presented in the Draft EIS and standardized industry category data, such as agriculture, wood products manufacturing, and mining.

Economic impacts associated with non-standardized industries (such as recreation) and non-resource related industries that locate in the region because of resource-related amenities (such as high tech firms) are not fully addressed in this report. However, this report does recognize, and the Draft EISs discuss in greater detail, the fact that the economic contribution of recreation uses on federal lands is large and growing.

"Looking at communities in the project area at different scales will help tell different social and economic stories that will provide communities and individuals helpful information for future economic development and planning," stated Nick Reyna, project economist and author of the economic characterization portion of the report.

A portion of the report estimates social and economic effects that may be expected at the community level if different alternatives presented in the Draft EISs were implemented. "This report infers possible trends in different types of communities within the project area," according to Jerry Williams, sociologist for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service and co-author of the effects portion of the report. The Pacific Northwest Regions economist, Dick Phillips, was also co-author.

The report found that over 30% of communities within the project area are considered isolated and nearly 70% are specialized in either agriculture, agriculture services, wood products manufacturing, mining, or federal government employment. The report is based on data gathered for one of the projects contract reports by the University of Idaho in 1996. Over 500 communities within the project area participated in the original survey.

"To get a full understanding of the social and economic conditions in the Basin, one should also review the Draft EISs and the science documents they reference. This report narrowly focuses on communities and should be considered in context with the other information that is present."


Project Manager,

Interior Columbia Basin

Ecosystem Management Project

The Economic Condition of Communities

Since the release of the Projects Integrated Scientific Assessment last year many people have expressed concerns that the broadscale economic analysis that was completed did not represent the social and economic conditions at the community level. In March 1997, at the request of the Eastside Ecosystem Coalition of Counties, the Projects Executive Steering Committee agreed to conduct a community level analysis using available data. Subsequently, the 1998 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act also asked for a community level analysis.

The analysis describes the economic conditions for individual communities and for groupings of communities by category. It also provides a basis for identifying types of communities that may be vulnerable to shifts in federal land uses.

Because of its broadscale, regional nature, the Integrated Scientific Assessment found that most (67%) of the people in the project area live in areas of high socio-economic resiliency and that a very low percentage (4%) of the basins employment is derived from the natural resources (wood products, ranching, and mining). However, over half of the counties in the project area are rated as having low resiliency. This is why many people felt a more local story needed to be told and many felt their local employment in natural resource industries was higher than the basin average.

The data used for this community level analysis was obtained through a contract with Dr. Chuck Harris of the University of Idaho. Dr. Harris and his colleagues surveyed communities within the interior Columbia Basin and gathered employment data on 423 of those communities. This report uses that data to describe each community in terms of "geographic isolation", "industrial specialization", "association with Forest Service- and BLM-administered lands", and "American Indian Communities".


Geographic isolation is based on the idea that if youre near a big town, you have more social and economic opportunities, including better access to employment opportunities, education, transportation, and cultural amenities. With this in mind, a 50-mile radius circle was placed around towns of 20,000 or more population with freeway access. A 35-mile radius circle was drawn around towns with more that 20,000 people without freeway access. Those towns that were not located inside the 35 or 50 mile radius circles were considered isolated.

In addition, some communities were identified as "isolated trade centers." These are isolated towns that also serve as trade centers for many outlying communities. They serve many of the shopping and business needs of rural residents who live very long distances from larger cities. These towns may exhibit different characteristics than other isolated communities. Of the 543 communities in the data base, 179 were determined to be isolated and 24 are considered isolated trade centers. This leaves 364 communities that are "not isolated."


Employment data for 423 communities was collected. Based on this data, a communitys industrial specialization (where the % jobs within a specific industrial category is higher than for a reference region, in this case the Bureau of Economic Analysis Region) was calculated. What was found is that over 70% of the towns in the basin are very specialized either in agriculture (crops and livestock), agricultural services, wood products manufacturing, mining, or federal government employment. And over 80% of isolated towns are specialized in one of the above. So isolated towns tend to be more specialized.


The percent of federal lands present within a 20-mile radius of each community was measured. The theory is that the more federal land surrounding the community the more a community may depend on federal lands for natural resources. This is not the cleanest relationship because there are many variables. Not surprising is that a lot of isolated towns are surrounded by federal lands.


A subset developed to see if communities associated with American Indian tribes differed from other communities. Much of what was true for other communities is similar for American Indian communities. They too are specialized in the same industrial categories.

Estimating the Effects on Communities

In the 1998 Interior Appropriations Act, Congress asked the Project to analyze the impacts that the Draft EIS alternatives could have on communities. In late 1997, the project enlisted the help of Dick Phillips, Pacific Northwest Regional Economist, and Jerry Williams, Regional Sociologist, to do this task.

Phillips and Williams took what was learned from the community characterization and used the effects analysis in the Draft EISs to describe possible impacts on communities. The analysis looked primarily at those communities that are specialized in natural resource industries most closely related to BLM and Forest Service management: mining, agriculture (which includes livestock grazing), wood products manufacturing, and Federal government (Forest Service and BLM employment). Recreation is discussed separately, however recreation employment data is found within the services industry. This makes it difficult to identify communities specialized in recreation. However, the analysis recognizes its importance to some communities.

The following is a summary of some of the conclusions from that analysis:

Communities that specialize in mining are likely to see no change from current conditions (represented by Alternative 2) under Alternatives 3, 4 and 6. A positive effect is expected under Alternatives 1 and 5. A negative impact is expected under Alternative 7 because of restrictions on mining in reserves.

Communities specializing in agriculture, specifically livestock grazing, are likely to see no change from current conditions under Alternatives 1, 3, 4 and 6. A positive effect is expected under Alternative 5, and a negative impact is expected under Alternative 7. However, it has acknowledged a degree of uncertainty associated with achieving the positive effects because of new aquatic standards, changes in grazing systems, and needed investments for range improvements. Uncertainty is greatest for Alternatives 3-7.

Communities that specialize in wood products manufacturing are likely to see positive effects under Alternatives 1 and 3-5 over current conditions. Negative impacts are expected under Alternatives 6 and 7. The degree of uncertainty in achieving these expected effects is greatest for Alternatives 3-6 due to operation and economic feasibility associated with harvest prescriptions, logging systems, and riparian conservation areas.

Due to restoration activities, communities specializing in federal employment can expect increases for all alternatives except Alternative 7. Overall, impacts of management direction in the Draft EISs on recreation across the basin is expected to be limited, therefore limiting the impacts on communities tied to recreation. There are some impacts to recreation in specific locations under Alternatives 5 (priority areas) and 7 (reserves).

Looking at Different Scales

Many natural resource issues led to the initiation of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. Because these issues (such as declining fish stocks, forest health, and catastrophic fire) cross many boundaries, a primary catalyst for the project was to look at the "big picture." The need to see how different resources interact and affect each other "at the broadscale" had become apparent to federal land managers.

Therefore, the data collection and assessment that occurred during the scientific phase of the project was done at a very large, broadscale level. This seemed to work well for the biological and physical components of the landscape. Lumping biological resources together to determine how they may be affected by each other and outside influences made sense.

However, looking at the social and economic aspects at a broad scale in the scientific assessment met with strong reaction from people throughout the project area. Many felt that a broadscale look at the human side of the ecosystem gave a distorted story and did not take individual communities into account. The picture of a robust regional economy did not seem to fit what many felt was the true story when you look at smaller, community level areas. Because of this, the impacts on local communities has been a key concern of many members of the public, county officials, and members of congress.

Estimating the effects for every community in the project area isnt practical. Every community is unique and has its own identity and history. It is not possible in this analysis to predict the potential effects or impacts on every one of the more than 500 communities in the project area. Because of the projects broadscale approach, specific activities or the outcomes expected to result from the activities, cannot be "placed" in or near a specific county or community making local effects on human uses difficult to evaluate.

Because the project was chartered to complete a broadscale management strategy, the Draft EISs provide only expected trends in natural resource targets or outputs such as timber board feet, animal unit months (AUMs) or recreation visitor days. Site specific decisions and any changes to natural resource outputs will be decided later through revision of local land and resource management plans with local public involvement.