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Protecting Utah's lands saves our local economy

By Brooks Pace

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Utah is a particularly well endowed state. Whether one believes this is a gift from a grand designer or the result of millions of years of natural geologic forces and evolution, we can all agree we're very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

We also can't deny that the natural beauty of our state adds to all our well being — including our economic prosperity. Recently, the Outdoor Industry Association, backed by more than 100 outdoor recreation-related businesses (including over 40 here in Utah), called on President Obama to create a Greater Canyonlands National Monument. The monument would protect the stunningly beautiful lands surrounding Canyonlands National Park that are as pristine as the park itself but are under threat from drilling, ATV misuse and other destructive practices.

This impressive group of voices from the outdoor recreation business community argued that a Greater Canyonlands National Monument "makes good economic sense." I have to agree with them. For over a hundred years my family has been in the tourist industry. My own livelihood has been in developing residential communities. So I'm naturally biased. I've tried to be sensitive to the land by controlling color, height and density of the homes in my developments.

But the fact is that I would not have had the success I've enjoyed if my projects were not surrounded by pristine parks, forests and wild areas.

Just think what a treasure the unspoiled scenic landscapes are for the rural businesses of southern Utah. In this country or abroad, when people hear the name Utah they immediately remark about their desire to visit Zion or Bryce or Canyonlands and their amazement at so much wide open untouched beauty.

Our protected landscapes draw tourists who hike and bike our trails, raft our rivers, travel our scenic byways, hunt and fish our undisturbed wild lands, and then go home and tell their friends about it. They may leave a few footprints, but the definitely leave a lot of cash.

In addition, a good number of people are so moved by the natural beauty and recreational opportunities that grace our state that they move to Utah as entrepreneurs and retirees, helping to grow and vitalize our economy. Our protected scenic landscapes also become more precious with time. Protected lands are the foundation of our tourism industry, which is sustainable and forever — unlike the extraction industries which end when the resources run out leaving only a sore spot on the land.

The fact is that our national parks, monuments and other land conservation designations have added inestimable wealth to our country and especially our state. It is arguable that nothing is more important to the long-term livability and economic vitality of Utah than protecting our unspoiled scenic landscapes.

I encourage everyone who has an interest in protecting our natural heritage and enhancing our economy, which should be all Utah citizens, to support the outdoor recreation business community by protecting the Greater Canyonlands as a national monument.

Brooks Pace is a fourth generation Utah resident. His developments in Washington County are the Dammeron Valley community and Ancestor Square. He is a partner in the Entrada development.

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