Lightning striking in the distance while a person watches from camp along the Dirty Devil River. © Whit Richardson
Outdoor recreation is a vital part of Utah’s economy. Each year in Utah, the outdoor recreation industry generates $12 billion in consumer spending and $856 million in state and local tax revenues. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Utah directly supports 122,000 Utah jobs, generating an additional $3.6 billion per year in wages and salaries. Even Utah Governor Gary Herbert recognizes outdoor recreation, tourism, and outdoor-related businesses as key pillars of Utah’s growing and diversifying economy, arguing that ensuring the continued health and beauty of Utah’s outdoor assets must be a part Utah’s long-term strategic thinking.
Unlike resource extraction-based economies subject to boom and bust cycles, outdoor recreation is a sustainable economic driver. Even during the Great Recession, the national outdoor recreation economy outperformed most other job sectors, maintaining a growth rate of 5% per year.
Utah’s easy access to outdoor recreation contributed to a recent Gallup survey’s conclusion that Utah’s quality of life is the best in the nation – an important factor for companies and employees looking to relocate. In fact, 82% of Utah residents participate in some form of outdoor recreation each year.
But all of this economic activity depends upon preserving Utah’s public lands. People don’t generally travel great distances to wander amongst drill rigs or mountain bike near a strip mine. Instead, people are drawn to Utah to hike its rugged canyons, paddle its stunning rivers, and explore its storied cultural history. To ensure this sustainable economy’s continued vitality, it is vital to protect the lands that make Utah so special.
Protecting Greater Canyonlands Would Boost Local Economies
Headwaters Economics, an independent non-profit research group, analyzed the local economies surrounding 17 national monuments larger than 10,000 acres before and after designation. In every case, the regional economies experienced growth in the aftermath of monument designation.
Here in Utah, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a prime example of this growth. President Bill Clinton designated the Utah monument of nearly two million acres in 1996. It has been a boon to Garfield and Kane Counties’ economies ever since; between 1996 and 2008, the number of jobs increased by nearly 38 percent, real personal income by 40 percent, and real per capita income by about 29 percent.
Grand, Emery, San Juan, and Wayne counties can similarly benefit if President Obama designates Greater Canyonlands National Monument. Rural communities adjacent to protected public lands are more economically successful than those dependent on large-scale energy development. Grand County already benefits greatly from nearby federal lands – outdoor recreation accounts for more than 70% of its economy. Emery and Wayne counties can also take advantage of this burgeoning industry and profit from a nearby national monument.
Preserving Greater Canyonlands National Monument would provide neighboring communities an opportunity to thrive in a rural landscape and develop resilient economies.