The Nature of Iowa's Economy - Prof. David Swenson/Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Professor David Swenson of Iowa State University is a regularly featured source in newspapers/reports across the state.  He recently penned an article on the economic benefits of conservation in the Iowa Heritage magazine – from Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.  You can find the piece after the jump, but a quick blurb:

When linking our natural resources with our economy, Iowans too often limit the discussion to recreation and tourism – sometimes casting nature as a mere springboard for commercial development. However, a healthy Iowa environment is not a means to an economic end, but rather the end itself – to which all sustainable economic activity must conform.

The “Nature” Of Iowa's Economy

by: Professor David Swenson, PhD

When linking our natural resources with our economy, Iowans too often limit the discussion to recreation and tourism – sometimes casting nature as a mere springboard for commercial development. However, a healthy Iowa environment is not a means to an economic end, but rather the end itself – to which all sustainable economic activity must conform.

Iowa’s economy increasingly requires incrementally better-educated people – and often two workers per household. Consequently, economic growth concentrates in areas that provide not only diverse workplace opportunities, but also diverse social, cultural and natural amenities to meet the needs of entire families.

Meanwhile, Iowans (and the world) are recognizing the vulnerability of natural commodities once considered infinite: clean air and water, fertile soil, scenic beauty and access to natural places. As everyone learns in Econ 101, people place more value on prized commodities whose supply is scarce or threatened.

For this state to compete nationally and globally, we must assure current and potential residents that our air and water are clear and clean, that our land is healthy and accessible, and that our enviable agricultural productivity is well-managed.

Iowa has an incredible array of natural assets, but we must invest strategically in outdoor recreational opportunities while restoring and reclaiming assets that have been neglected. Our public policies should promote our natural resource base jointly with our economy. A vibrant and diverse economic environment depends on a vibrant, diverse, and accessible natural environment.

David Swenson is an associate scientist and lecturer for the Department of Economics and College of Agriculture at Iowa State University. His work and research focus on community and economic analysis.

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