February 19, 2013

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Forty under 40

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Article

Middle Ground

Would State Control of Federal Lands Harm the Recreation Industry?

Spencer Sutherland

February 19, 2013

For Metcalf, protecting public lands is as much about economic development as it is about recreation and preserving scenery. “The federal government maintains the monuments and federal lands that people from all over the world come to recreate on. We in Utah—who have gas stations and hotels, grocery stores, guide services, bike shops—we benefit. Those businesses generate taxes. We get the best of both worlds. We get the feds to pay for it all and we get, as Utahns, the benefits of it all.”

Finding Compromise

The Outdoor Recreation Vision plan attempts to strike middle ground between the two conflicting, but important, viewpoints. The plan outlines the state’s vision for outdoor recreation, offering more than 40 recommendations to improve the recreational experience. It also outlines guiding principles that Utah should embrace to enhance outdoor recreation, as well as notes the industry’s economic and quality of life benefits—all of which the Outdoor Industry Association and Metcalf applaud. It does not, however, address the state’s attempt to gain ownership of millions of acres of federal lands.

“The attempt by the state to expropriate our magnificent federal lands for private sale—this is 100 percent antithetical to the governor’s vision,” Metcalf says, adding that he recognizes the need for a balanced approach. “We need to make some hard decisions to find a balance...We ask him to now act with a sense of urgency to transform vision to reality.”

Matheson is confident the state can find solutions that work for all affected parties. “The watchword is balance. Balance can mean different things to different people, but most people would say that we ought to be using our public lands in the best interests of the public. That may mean using developable lands for some of their development potential. It may mean using watershed lands for water production, it may mean using recreational lands for recreation. It’s not one-size-fits-all.”

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