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Readers' forum: Protect our precious land

Published: Thursday, Sept. 22 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

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In a recent article ("Federal landlord robs Utah's kids," My View, Sept. 20), Rep. Christopher Herrod wrongly argues that protecting Utah's precious public lands harms our school kids.

Consider the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Because of the GSENM, Utah was able to trade off scattered, remote and difficult to develop property in the monument and other areas.

In return Utah gained $50 million for education, millions more from unleased coal, more than 160 million tons of coal, 185 billion cubic feet of coal bed methane and 139,000 acres of land and minerals in nine counties. Gov. Mike Leavitt lauded the deal, as did Utah's School Trust Lands Administration, the PTA and Rep. Jim Hansen.

The monument has benefited local economies. Employment in Kane and Garfield counties — where the GSENM is located — grew 38 percent from 1996 to 2008: four times faster than the population grew in those counties surrounding the monument. Real per capita income grew by 30 percent.

And Utahns see through the divisive anti-environment rhetoric. A recent poll found 69 percent of Utahns now rate the monument as "very good" or "somewhat good" for the state.

Protecting our most precious land is good for Utah's economy, our kids' educations and our quality of life.

Crystal Young-Otterstrom

Salt Lake City

Alliance for a Better UTAH

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