Community Futures

Public lands and the outdoor recreational opportunities they afford offer economic assets to communities around the country. The quality of life they permit improves the health and wellbeing of citizens, while their ability to attract not only recreationists, but also tourists, baby boomers retiring to greener pastures, and entrepreneurs, who in turn create economic diversity, is well documented. As Headwaters Economics notes, “[C]ounties with more federal lands or protected federal lands perform better on average than their peers with less federal lands or protected federal lands in key economic measures.”

This track focuses on investments in public lands as a way to drive economic growth in rural communities.

Panels are designed to frame up the topics under consideration with topic experts. Following the panels, panelists and audiences break into small groups that employ the World Café format to facilitate dynamic interaction and networking among participants and crowdsource solutions to challenges identified by the panelists.

Panels include: 

Transition Towns 

Grand Room

Rural communities around America—particularly ones for which logging, mining, and oil and gas development have been the historic economic engines—are using investments in public lands and outdoor recreation to drive economic growth. Diverse economies are less susceptible to boom-bust cycles than ones reliant on extractive industries, which are inherently subject to the vagaries of markets and other external forces. This panel explores the opportunities and challenges of economic diversification with representatives from communities in various stages of transition.

Moderator: Jason Keith, Public Land Solutions (2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection)


Beyond Tourism

Teton Room

For many GEMS (Gateways to Environments of Major Significance, aka gateway communities), tourism is life. In “tourist season,” restaurants, hotels and businesses that cater to visitors flourish, while in “shoulder seasons”… not so much. Economic and career opportunities are often limited to service-sector jobs—and when GEMS become popular, the price of living can strain the ability of residents to remain in the communities they love.

A number of GEMS around the continent are leveraging the talent and resources of second-home owners, retirees and business leaders to foster economic ecosystems that are more diverse and resilient. This panel features representatives from business incubator groups in an exploration of how they’ve been promoting entreneurship in their communities—and how they insure the resulting prosperity protects “the golden goose” of the public lands in which they occur.

Moderator: Scott Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Silicon Couloir, Jackson, WY


The Designation Effect

Timberline 1

On September 17, a leaked memo from the Department of the Interior addressed the Trump Administration’s directive from April to review 27 national monuments created since 1996. The memo recommended 10 national monuments—including Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Katahdin Woods and Waters, and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks—be resized or opened up to mining, logging or other industrial purposes. This panel features leaders from those communities in a discussion about how their economies have been impacted by the designations, how the recommendations have been received and how people interested in the futures of national monuments can get engaged.

Moderator: Kyle Sullivan, Manager, Mojave Trails National Monument (2017 Emerging Leader) 


  • Carrie Hamblen, CEO, Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce (Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument)
  • Suzanne Catlett, President, Escalante Chamber of Commerce (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument)
  • Lucas St. Clair, President, Elliotsville Plantation Inc. (Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument) (2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection)
  • Ray Rasker, Executive Director, Headwaters Economics

Rocket Fuel