Promoting and protecting Utah's outdoor recreation
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"The nearly universal appreciation of these preserved landscapes, restored waters, and cleaner air through outdoor recreation is a modern expression of our freedom and leisure to enjoy the wonderful life that generations past have built for us."

These are Ronald Reagan's words, adopted by Gov. Gary Herbert to introduce The State of Utah Outdoor Recreation Vision — a 60-page framework on how Utah will protect, enhance and promote outdoor recreation in our state.

Wednesday, the governor made good on his promise from August, delivering the vision — the first of its kind in the country — to outdoor industry leaders during Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City.

As CEOs of three Utah-based outdoor companies, we can say that the Utah vision — when implemented — can anchor a sustainable economic strategy. We see the potential. It's time to move forward. In recreation, public lands and resource management, the focus has been on competing demands and conflict. The time has come to work together, take inventory and identify benefits-based approaches that provide balanced and sustainable returns from Utah lands and waters.

Jim Holland, our colleague and co-founder of backcountry.com says it best: "I hope that the people of Utah and our policy makers will come to see the direct connection between our economic vitality and the unbelievable recreational opportunities we have here in our mountains, our canyons, our deserts and our backcountry areas.

"These are what drew me to this area and why and I chose to start backcountry.com here. We employ close to 1,000 people — who all make Utah their home for these very same reasons. I hope we all come to value and protect these amazing places we play because it really is tied to our economic well-being."

Utah's quality of life and recreational opportunities allow Petzl America to attract and maintain a high quality staff. This is one reason the company just announced it is building an 80,000-square-foot facility in West Valley City.

The vision recognizes what those of us in the industry have long understood: Outdoor recreation is good for business and good for Utah.

The facts:

• Utah's outdoor recreation industry is a significant and growing part of the state's economy. It contributes $4 billion annually in consumer spending, supports 65,000 jobs, and generates nearly $300 million in annual state tax revenues.

• Access to outdoor recreation — from the backyard to the backcountry — attracts employers and employees, and contributes to a quality of life that rivals anywhere in the United States.

• Utah tops the nation in several health categories, thanks to its active outdoor lifestyle.

We have a lot going for us in Utah, but we can do better.

Utah is a recognized outdoor destination that draws visitors from around the world. Yet, current state policies focus on energy production, mining, agriculture and ranching.

Outdoor recreation can continue to grow jobs and drive the economy if we manage and invest in Utah's parks, waters and trails as an outdoor recreation system designed to sustain quality of life, user access and economic dividends. We aren't doing that in Utah … yet.

In business, planning is the first step, and this vision provides a path to:

• Create an Office of Outdoor Recreation to coordinate state efforts.

• Convene an annual Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit, gathering policy makers, managers, researchers, industry and users.

• Work with academia and others to generate data that anchors thoughtful planning.

Outdoor recreation is a core component of Utah's quality of life and a core driver in local and regional economies across this state. But we can do better.

We have a path forward. Let's get started.

Joe Atkin is president and CEO of Goal Zero in Bluffdale; Mike Dowse is president and general manager, Americas of Amer Sports in Ogden; and Roody Rasmussen is senior vice president of Petzl America in Clearfield. All are members of the governor's Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee and helped craft the vision.