FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 17, 2017
New Billboard Tells Utah Leaders “Attacking Public Lands Hurts Our Economy”
SALT LAKE CITY—A new billboard on northbound I-15 at I-80 urges Utah’s state leaders to take a “U-Turn” from a reckless path on public lands that is already hurting the state’s multi-billion-dollar recreation economy.
National public lands have come under attack from Utah leaders on multiple fronts, according to the Center for Western Priorities, which sponsored the billboard.
The state continues to pursue legislative and legal pathways in an attempt to seize outdoor spaces that belong to all Americans. If successful, the risky scheme would likely force the sale of public lands for private energy development to offset the significant management and maintenance costs. In the process, public access for hiking, biking, and hunting would be permanently lost, along with the economies and jobs they support.
National monuments are also at risk in Utah. Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution calling for the recently-designated Bears Ears National Monument to be eliminated while members of the state legislature are trying to drastically shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. In Congress, Utah representatives are behind an effort to eliminate the ability of future presidents to designate new monuments.
“America’s public lands are a vital part of our shared national history and heritage,” said Jennifer Rokala, Executive Director at the Center for Western Priorities. “These treasured outdoor spaces are the birthright of all Americans whether we live in Utah, Colorado or Ohio.”
The actions of state leaders against public lands have already ignited a costly blowback from the recreation industry which makes up $12 billion of Utah’s economy and is an engine for job creation. Last month, the Outdoor Industry Association announced its bi-annual Outdoor Retailer convention will be leaving the state after the summer of 2018, a $45 million hit to the local economy.
“It is almost like Utah’s leaders don’t want their kids to get jobs in Utah,” said Ashley Korenblat, CEO of Western Spirit Cycling. “High tech, finance, and outdoor companies are choosing Utah because of our healthy public lands. But Utah’s leaders are absolutely committed to dismantling the very public land system that gives us a competitive advantage. Our leaders are out of touch and tone deaf to the 21st century economy and their actions are already costing us jobs and hurting our state’s reputation.”
Outdoors enthusiasts from neighboring states recently launched a grassroots postcard campaign telling Governor Herbert they will be spending their recreation and tourism dollars in states that respect public lands.
High resolution versions of the U-Turn Utah billboard and Environment Colorado/Environment New Mexico postcards are available here.