Report examines economic impact of California desert national monuments

August 21, 2018
Contact: Rich Weideman, Interim Executive Director
Phone: 760-820-2275

Report examines economic impact of California desert national monuments

Joshua Tree – A new report indicates that the national monument designations in San Bernardino County are attracting more visitors and stand to generate greater turnover and job opportunities.

The report looks at Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails and Castle Mountains national monuments. Located next to Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve, these national monuments help piece together federally protected public lands and offer further public access and recreational opportunities.

This is especially critical at a time when Joshua Tree National Park is faced with record-breaking attendance and has encouraged the public to “take advantage of lesser visited parks and public lands”. Mojave National Preserve has also experienced increasing visitation since it was created in 1994.

The report prepared by AM Development Group on behalf of the Mojave Desert Land Trust shows visitation at Sand to Snow National Monument has risen steeply in the past year. Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in Sand to Snow has the most easily measurable visitation of the three monuments. According to the preserve’s executive director, Meg Foley, January 2018 was the busiest month in the preserve’s history. Nearly 11,000 vehicles entered the preserve road in that month alone. February 2018 saw year-on-year vehicle entries increase by more than 100%. March and April 2018 also saw increases.

Foley believes the national monument status has increased traffic. “The national monument designation did seem to bring a new audience. We judge this from questions and requests for Sand to Snow passport stamps. There has been an increase in guided tours led by commercial companies.” – Meg Foley, Executive Director, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

According to a May 2018 Headwaters Economics report into the economic impact of national parks, visitation and spending related to parks annually contribute billions to regional economies while creating hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs.

Joshua Tree Excursions is one example of a local business that is experiencing growth. The outdoor eco-adventure tour company is owned by US Army National Guard and Marine Corps veteran Kelly Crawford.

“Since their designation, our three new national monuments and other protected lands have created, and will continue to create, countless new opportunities and jobs for the tourism, outdoor recreation, and education industries. My business has steadily increased since the designation of the desert monuments. I have seen a 200% increase in business from 2016 – 2017 alone.” — Kelly Crawford, CEO, JT Excursions

These figures are supported by past research into national monument designations. In 2017, Headwaters Economics researched the 2011, 2014 and 2017 local economies adjacent to all 17 national monuments in the West following each monument’s creation. Economic indicators such as population, employment, personal income and per-capita income growth in each of the regions surrounding the national monuments grew following a new monument’s creation.

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic, and cultural value within the Mojave Desert. For more information, visit

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