OIA and Utah • Gov. Gary Herbert probably heaved a sigh of relief when the Outdoor Industry Association announced its plan to continue holding its massive Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City twice a year until 2016. The OIA's contribution to Utah's economy is so great it prompted Herbert to delegate the writing of a long-term "vision plan" for outdoor recreation, something the state has never done. The vision statement that emerged offers some recognition of the importance of outdoor recreation to the state, but it doesn't go far enough. The Utah Legislature and Herbert remain committed to the quixotic notion of taking over the management of federal lands in the state, controlling roads on public lands and opening more land for drilling. While those issues remain state priorities, and nothing is done to improve air quality, the Beehive State could lose the OIA's future support. That would be a disaster.
Education choice • Conservative Utah legislators who support choice in education should be proud of the state's "B" grade from an outfit that promotes parental choice, online learning, teacher quality and transparency. The pro-charter Center for Education Reform gave high rankings to Utah's charter-school law, the options parents have when choosing a school, the availability of online courses and the parent-friendliness of the system. Teacher evaluations are inadequate, it rightly warned. The report, however, didn't address graduation rates. Utah's charters are graduating anywhere from 27 percent to 100 percent of their students, depending on the particular school. Something there is amiss.
Land for schools • Utah State University researchers say the West's school trust lands have been largely neglected or mismanaged, resulting in much less revenue for the states' schools than is possible. While things have improved in Utah, the report indicates as much as a third of Utah's private lands are former school trust lands that were sold in years past, often at less than their real value. The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration earned praise for increasing the value of the trust lands endowment. Now, there is a concern that we share, that "maximizing the revenue" should also be tempered by recognition that some trust lands should remain undeveloped and perhaps traded for land that is better suited for non-recreational uses.