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Utah business owners visit state capitol to tout Grand Staircase National Monument

SALT LAKE CITY --Some southern Utah businesses are afraid of losing the state's tourism at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

They met at the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon to voice their concerns over the governor's signed resolution shrink the size of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Chef Blake Spalding was there with other restaurant, lodge, and tour guide business owners. Spalding co-owns the award-winning restaurant Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah. She has been there for nearly 20 years and wants to stay, but she worries her customers might stop coming.

"I'm hearing rumblings that people are going to boycott Utah," Spalding said.

Spalding opened her business there after President Bill Clinton designated the area a national monument, knowing that is where the tourists would come to try her organic meals.

"We've seen our business of 17 years ago, it doubled in the last three years, people love the monument," Spalding said. "They come with their kids, they stay at the Boulder Mountain Lodge, where we are located."

Lodge owners, restaurant owners, other tourist businesses, and an Escalante Chamber of Commerce member, all stood together inside the Utah Capitol's presentation room to encourage the governor and his administration to visit southern Utah and see the tremendous growth the monument has created since its designation.

"A lot of us are just mom and pop small business, but we are all making a go of it, and what's allowed us to increase our business is the increasing number of tourists," said business owner Keith Watts.

Watts owns Earth Tours in Boulder. Like Spalding, he worries that without the tourists, the counties there will not survive.

Spalding went to a county commissioner meeting two weeks ago.

"They are talking about bringing in coal mining and fracking and uranium; and I mean nothing that's going to please a tourist," Spalding said.

In a statement the governor said:

“We must keep the vast size of this monument in perspective. Consider that the combined acreage of Utah’s ‘Mighty Five’ National Parks totals 840,589 acres. The total area protected by Grand Staircase-Escalante is more than two-times the size of our national parks combined."