Meshing viable economic strategies with concern for maintaining Utah's wilderness areas was a hot topic during the Governor's Conference On Tourism held recently in St. George.
Several officials discussed how officials could increase community tax bases and create jobs on lands adjacent to designated wilderness areas.Utah Wilderness Alliance executive director Brent Calkin urged community leaders to look at their cities "as part of something larger" and to include the nearby wilderness in descriptions of activities and assets. He contends one of the best ways to do that is through high-profile advertising campaigns.
Calkin said communities should also do something to relate themselves to the wilderness areas specifically, providing a good mix of recreation and industry for tourists and residents alike.
He said attracting businesses related to the outdoors - for example, small sporting-goods manufacturers - would help encourage cooperation between wilderness advocates and developers. Health resorts and small, highly-skilled professional firms would also be good potential targets for the area's economic development officials, Calkin said.
Jane Leeson, Utah's representative to the Wilderness Society, called on community leaders to encourage economies that will support the Earth's life-support system.
She said minimum interference with nature must be considered in community planning. "Clearly, some of the decisions we have made in the past have not been right," Leeson said. "We didn't know enough about our own powers and what they would do to the environment around us," she said, urging support for Rep. Wayne Owens' wilderness bill. "In the long term, the land that we set aside today will be treasured far more and will be looked at as a move for higher security for our children," Leeson said.
Brigham Young University economist Arden Pope said preservation can help promote tourism and recreation, but that it can only happen through a program of broad-minded and responsible land management.
Pope believes extremes on both sides of the issue should be avoided, and encouraged community leaders and land managers to recognize that multiple use of land is really just a mosaic of limited uses.