Western Region

The Western collaboration region is the largest in terms of geography, number of employees, and NOAA facilities.  The region is home to 4,786 federal and non-federal NOAA staffs distributed across 92 cities in the West, and represents over 21% of the total agency workforce 1.

Employees in the region represent the full diversity of NOAA’s technical and scientific expertise.  From generating daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce, NOAA employees throughout the region are working hard to provide our public and decision makers with the best science-based and reliable information when and where it is needed.  We’re dedicated and we care; we live here too!

NOAA’s capabilities in the region are strengthened by some of the best and brightest in their fields of practice. Within the region, we have an extensive partnership network that keeps the agency informed about priority issues, collects data and information, conducts cutting edge research and science outreach, and helps manage our coasts and reserves.

Geography and Environment
The eleven states within NOAA West span nearly 1.2 million square miles constituting nearly 33% of the total United States. The West is dominated by a number of important features including

  • The Rocky Mountains which stretch roughly 3,000 miles from British Columbia, Canada south to New Mexico;
  • The Great Basin, an impressive 200,000 square mile terminal drainage catchment that encompasses a variety of terrestrial ecosystems and spans numerous metropolitan areas; and
  • The Pacific Coast consisting of 7,863 miles of tidal shoreline and a marine environment shaped by the California Current – a highly productive Large Marine Ecosystem comprised of over 400 estuaries and bays, including the Columbia River, San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound.

This expansive region is characterized by numerous distinct, complex, and sometimes extreme terrestrial and marine ecosystems.  From the coastal temperate rainforests (Hoh) to the desert environments (Death Valley) and from the highest summit in the contiguous United States (Mount Whitney) to the lowest point in North America (Badwater in Death Valley National Park), the social, cultural, historical, political, and economic contexts of this region have always been, and continue to be, closely tied to the natural environment.

Social and Economic Context

The socio-economic context of the West is as diverse as the natural environment and is a residential mix of both urban and rural communities. The region is home to over 73 million people representing nearly a quarter of the total U.S. population. Census data show a regional population increase of nearly 3 million since 2010, with the three coastal states alone accounting for 70% of the regional population growth2.  The region also includes 230 of the 566 federally recognized tribal entities in the United States3.  Many tribal communities in the West remain concerned about changing climate conditions, particularly in the context of their cultural identity – that is, their beliefs, values, behaviors, symbols, and overall way of life.  Reservation based communities are spatially fixed on the landscape, and climate related environmental changes such as decreased water supply and desertification, ocean acidification, sea level rise and coastal storminess, can have direct negative and also disproportional impacts on tribal communities.

Recent data show that the eleven states comprising this region generated over 25% of the total U.S. Gross Domestic Product4.  California alone generated nearly 13% of the total output of goods and services in the U.S., ranking 1st in the United States in GDP with total output valued at over $2.2 trillion, and making it the 7th largest economy in the world.

The historical and cultural heritage of the West and iconic landscape features combine to make this region a destination spot for tourism and recreation. Outdoor recreation is a significant economic driver in the U.S., topping an estimated $666 billion in annual spending, and supporting 6.6 million direct jobs5.  Within this region, $194 billion – nearly 29% of the national spending total, was in the Western states6.  From regional employment (1.8 million jobs) to state, and local tax revenue ($14.5 billion), the tourism economy is critically important to the health and vitality of the region.

The ocean economy factors heavily in the economic health of the region’s three coastal states, and is comprised of six industrial sectors: marine transportation; tourism and recreation; living marine resources; marine construction; ship and boat building; and mineral extraction.  In 2012, the ocean economy of the West accounted for 638,374 jobs, $24.7 billion wages, and $59.3 billion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  The Tourism and Recreation sector accounted for 71.9% of ocean related jobs and 36.7% of the GDP produced in the ocean economy.  The Marine Transportation sector accounted for 18.7% of the ocean-related jobs and 31.1% of the GDP produced in the ocean economy7.

Resources and Links

1 NOAA Staff Directory, Report:  Summary of Staff in NOAA by Address as of June 26, 2015

2 Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population of the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014 (NST-EST2014-01), U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division.  Release Date:  December 2014.

3 Federal Register/Vol. 80, No. 9 /Wednesday, January 14, 2015/Notices, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services From the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs

4 http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_state/qgsp_newsrelease.htm, Table, Current-Dollar Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, 2013 US Department of  Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, accessed on 06/09/2015

5 Southwick Associates (2013).  The Economic Contributions of Outdoor Recreation:  Technical Report on Methods and Findings.

6 Ibid.

7 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW) Data. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Charleston, SC: NOAA Office for Coastal Management. Available atwww.coast.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/data/enow/

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