Our public lands are our national treasure. I have run hundreds of miles through our public lands, enjoying the breathtaking scenery while competing in races and camping in Canyonlands National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks. The thought of a future where my son and our children’s only connection to this pristine and protected land is photographs and stories of what it was like before we sold it off for short-term gain is unacceptable to me.
When we protect and support our monuments, rural communities in my district are more resilient. They see diversified economies and sustainable growth and are taken out of the boom and bust cycle driven by reliance on one natural resource. Community leaders near the monuments tell me about healthier jobs, increases in tourism, population growth, and an influx of small businesses that provide higher per capita income thanks to the tourism these lands provide. Indeed, tourism and the recreation economy in Utah provides nearly 150,000 jobs and is worth $12.4 billion to Utah.
One of Utah’s crown jewels is the 200 million-year-old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which sits entirely in Utah’s 2nd district. Grand Staircase has outstanding recreational opportunities, astonishing paleontological discoveries, and stunning scenery, not to mention Native American and Mormon settler heritage including over 20,000 archeological sites and a large stretch of the Hole-in-the-Rock trail.
Currently, Utah’s public lands comprise some of the best big game habitat in the Western United States. Oftentimes, these lands encompass critical wintering habitat that species need to thrive. New research has shown that the development of roads, infrastructure, and extractive industry activities leads to bottlenecks in wildlife migration corridors and stopover areas. As history has shown, these types of activities are likely to occur in the areas proposed for removal from current National Monument boundaries. I will work to bring together all those who enjoy the land, whether through recreation, conservation, or as residents of rural communities.
Attacking the future of America’s public lands is unpopular outside of Utah’s Congressional delegation. The danger of the Monuments’ boundaries reduction poses a direct threat to all public lands in the United States. This action sets a dangerous precedent for the most beloved places in our country and cannot stand uncontested.