A panel discussion addressed the topic "The Environment and the Economy - Is There a Balance?" during the Utah Summit Rural Economic Development Conference being held at Southern Utah State College this week.
Brant Calkins, a panel member and executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said such dialogue helps "a little" in getting government officials and environmentalists together."Like economic development, if you have modest expectations, you'll have some modest success. This is not the first time I've visited with (San Juan County Commission chairman) Cal Black, and it's always been a peaceful kind of warfare, although we're still talking."
His comments came following a debate and question and answer session regarding the balance between economic development and protecting the environment.
Black said he feels there is a broad disagreement over what balance is, as local people attempt to develop the natural resources of rural Utah. "We need dialogue and we need to know who represents the environmentalists," said Black.
Panelist Tom Hatch, Garfield County Commission chairman, stressed the same theme. "We need to know who we are dealing with each time we address a potential development project."
Hatch said many times an agreement with one faction of the environmentalist movement would be met by resistance from another group and that it is difficult for government officials to determine which spokespersons will be effective in agreement situations.
Calkins said he would like to have one spokesperson, but added that he understands there are many variations and viewpoints to be considered.
Emery Castle, chairman of Oregon State's University Graduate Faculty of Economics, said a healthy economic climate cannot exist with a sick environment and proposed that the inverse was also true.
"Poverty is no friend of the environment," Castle said, adding that the environment can't be maintained without a fairly healthy economy. He said it is no accident that people interested in protecting the environment are among those who have a high income and high standard of living, explaining that they naturally turn to protecting the environment, which affects their quality of life.
Panel moderator Scott Truman, executive director of the Emery County Development Council, summed up the panel's feeling that communication lines need to remain open as rural areas attempt to strengthen their economies by developing natural resources and encouraging more tourism to the state.