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Sale of Utah's Wild Lands Suggested For Deficit Reduction

Republican House Representatives Rob Bishop from Utah and Stevan Pearce recently suggested to Speaker of the House, fellow Republican John Boehner, that selling public lands and federal wilderness areas in the West could be a way to reduce the national deficit and spending. The Utah-based Outdoor Industry Association, the trade group for the outdoor recreation industry, quickly fired back, claiming that outdoor recreation on public lands supports 6 million jobs and creates $646 billion in consumer spending and $60 billion in government revenue.

This OIA vs. Republicans narrative is not exactly new, and the issue has been especially contentious in Utah ever since the state's governor, Republican Gary Herbert, sued this federal government this summer for the transfer of federal lands in Utah to the state last winter. Members of Utah's 65,000 member outdoor industry saw this as a short-sighted sell to private developers and coal, gas, and mining interests, and took some pretty loud action. They threatened to move the $40 million Outdoor Retailer tradeshow out of the state, and Peter Metcalf, CEO of the giant outdoor equipment manufacturer Black Diamond, resigned from the state's Ski and Snowboard Working Group and wrote a nasty op-ed in the Salt Lake City Tribune. Metcalf accused Herber of attempting to "kill the goose that lays the golden egg," and argued that Utah's abundant and publicly accesible wilderness are a huge reason why the state's outdoor recreation industry has grown to be worth nearly $6 billion and support 65,000 jobs.

Governor Herbert argued back that many of the public lands are too remote to see tourists' footprints, and that they can be opened up to "multiple responsible uses" without harming the outdoor industry. The new proposal by Representatives Bisop and Pearce adds another layer to a contentious debate going on at many levels about the role of wilderness in Utah, which also includes a proposal for a new chairlift at Alta and the SkiLink Gondola that hopes to connect The Canyons with Solitude via an 11-minute chairlift ride over 30 acres of public land.
·OIA Opposes Fiscal Cliff Land Sale Solution [Skiing Business]