As a resident of Montana, I don't often need to be reminded of the importance of the natural beauty surrounding those of us living here. But a study just released illustrates just how important a pretty view can be for our economy.
Apparently, we can, at least to some extent, quantify in dollars and cents the value of a spectacular view.
According to a Michigan State University researcher, visitors to Glacier National Park in northwest Montana spend more than $100 million a year in the communities surrounding it. That spending supports nearly 1,700 jobs that are sorely needed in struggling communities like Kalispell, Whitefish and Browning.
The report adds that nationwide, national parks are responsible for generating more than $30 billion a year to the U.S. economy and creating some 250,000 jobs. And those numbers only include spending done within 60 miles of a national park. It does not include spending as travelers pass through other communities on the way to their destinations.
I bring this up because I do forget sometimes that all of that empty space isn't just valuable in some heady, green way. Natural beauty doesn't just give us an opportunity to have a spiritual moment or to go "ahh."
All of that undisturbed property is money in the bank and jobs for a lot of folks - maybe even for some real estate agents.
In many cites and towns, the natural setting drives people to want to live there, to buy a home and raise their children there. Curb appeal doesn't just apply as a potential buyer pulls alongside a house. It reaches to the horizon and to the scenes taken in along the way.
So while we struggle with 8 percent unemployment and the housing market continues to struggle, let's remember those undisturbed views can translate into jobs and money in local economies.
Sure we also should build the pipeline and mine the coal. We need all the jobs we can get. Let's just remember that other important jobs and a big chunk of change also come from that beautiful horizon we usually appreciate for other reasons.