What comes to mind when a person hears the term "natural resources" often depends on that person's politics.
Many Utah conservatives recognize only tangible substances such as coal, oil and timber or natural gas things that can be counted and measured directly and immediately. To be sure, those natural resources easily translate into readily visible jobs for thousands.
The Beehive State is wealthy in natural resources that contribute just as heavily to the state's economy, but in ways that are not so easily quantifiable, and instead are more sustainable over the long haul than the extraction of finite substances.
A report from Utah State University thoroughly demonstrates that fact. It estimates that Utah's Blue Ribbon Fisheries, which include 25 streams and rivers and 27 reservoirs and lakes, are contributing at least $184 million of $259 million channeled directly into the Utah economy annually by people who fish. Those direct expenditures are for lodging, fuel, groceries, restaurant food and equipment rentals. Indirect impacts of these fisheries generate another $143 million.
The Blue Ribbon Fisheries program, administered by the state Division of Wildlife Resources, also produces $35 million a year in tax revenue for state and local governments.
Researchers say that all those figures are probably below the actual amounts. The number reflects only a portion of licensed Utah resident anglers and does not include non-resident anglers, who spend substantially more than the estimated $90 per day that typical Blue Ribbon fishers do.
And outdoor recreation, including fishing, is a sustainable industry, as long as we protect the water, land, vegetation, vistas and wildlife that it requires.
The best thing about this economic driver and job creator is that its contributions to such negatives as traffic and air pollution are negligible compared to the extractive industries that are consistently the darlings of Utah's conservative elected officials.
Clearly, the state should be encouraging fishing, as well as hunting, backpacking, biking, hiking and other low-impact activities and should be protecting the environments they depend on. Instead, Gov. Gary Herbert and his administration consistently advocate for dirty-energy development and antagonize the outdoor industry by such antics as demanding that public lands be handed over to the state.
Angling is more than a hobby. It is an important part of the growing outdoor recreation industry, the economic driver of the future.