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Brenton Peterson's op-ed, "Utah needs study to determine economic effect of wilderness" (Opinion, May 7), suggests that we lack research on the economic effects of wilderness. Peterson missed the extensive work done by The Sonoran Institute, Headwaters Economics, and the annual Colorado College State of the Rockies Report Card. Search online for these sources; you'll find startling facts rarely acknowledged by rural Westerners — but crucial to their fate.

Just 3 percent (in 2000) of total personal income in the West came from agriculture, mining and energy development, and lumber and wood products. That statistic transcends Rep. Rob Bishop's rhetoric when he decries the "war on Western jobs" posed by wild country preservation.

Rural sociologists find that permanent protection of "natural amenities" on public lands stimulates economic growth. Rural counties with protected lands (wilderness and national parks and monuments) do even better when they have access to an airport (Moab and St. George take advantage of this) and ski resorts (a huge draw in Utah). Rural economies grow with an educated workforce (so invest in education and quit frivolous anti-fed lawsuits).

Utah is perfectly situated for this new Western economy — but only if we protect our unique wild lands from short-term, shortsighted development.

Stephen Trimble

Salt Lake City