Understanding poverty and unemployment on the Olympic Peninsula after the Spotted Owl
Conserving the natural ecology of an area through environmental restrictions has become increasingly common. The harvest limitations on national forests in the habitat of the Northern Spotted Owl in the 1990s are a well-known example. The controversy that ensued with this listing quickly became framed as one of jobs versus the environment, a contention that often characterizes conservation efforts. This contention is closely tied to export-based economic theory which assumes that a rural area's natural resource commodity base is the most important factor in economic development and community well-being. However, other factors could impact well-being including a prior period of industrial restructuring, the presence of minorities, and mitigating factors such as increasing educational attainment, retirement migration and commuting patterns. Focusing on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, I use panel regression to examine the power of indicators of these different factors to explain poverty and unemployment rates on the peninsula in 2000. Industrial restructuring and the presence of minorities are the only significant explanatory variables for poverty. The presence of minorities is the only significant variable for unemployment rates.