Utah's leaders need to make a U-turn from a reckless path that is already hurting the state's recreation economy.
Utah is running a multi-million dollar advertising campaign encouraging people to visit the state’s national parks and public lands. Utah’s TV ad, “Road to Mighty,” reminds viewers from around the country that America’s public lands in Utah “belong to you...this is your birthright.”
But Utah’s leaders are attacking our “birthright” American public lands. Recent actions by Utah Governor Gary Herbert and other state leaders not only disrespect our shared national heritage and legacy, they threaten an outdoor recreation economy that lifts local businesses and creates good jobs.
The state is planning to sue the federal government in an attempt to take over outdoor spaces that belong to all of us. If that happens, Utah will likely have to close access for hiking, biking, and hunting, and sell our public lands to private developers to pay for the added management costs. And in the process, all Americans could permanently lose access to our public lands in Utah.
Utah politicians’ aggression towards our public lands is only increasing. Governor Herbert signed a resolution calling for the recently-designated Bears Ears National Monument to be eliminated while members of the state legislature are trying to drastically shrink Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. In Congress, Utah representatives are behind an effort to eliminate the ability of future presidents to build our legacy and protect new monuments to our heritage.
As a result, the Outdoor Industry Association announced that the summer of 2018 is the last time its’ Outdoor Retailer convention will be held in Salt Lake City. Losing the semi-annual convention is a $45 million hit to the local economy. But even more is at stake if Utah continues down this risky path. The outdoor recreation industry makes up $12 billion—or about 10 percent—of Utah’s economy. It’s time for a U-turn.