Utah’s governor pushes ‘balance’ between preservation, business interests at Outdoor Recreation Summit

MIDWAY, Utah -- Governor Gary Herbert called for an "appropriate balance" between preservation and business interests in remarks delivered to members of the outdoor industry.

At the Utah Outdoor Recreation Summit, the governor highlighted how big of a business outdoor recreation has become. It's a $12 billion industry that employs more than 110,000 people.

"Tourism and travel is increasing by double digit numbers each and every year. It’s an amazing number and certainly a big part from our economic expansion," he said in an interview afterward.

With 36 million acres of public land in Utah, the governor also acknowledged more could be done to preserve public lands. However, he told reporters, it needed to be balanced.

"Not everybody’s going to be a backpacker and going into the wilderness areas. So we need to have a variety of opportunities out there and bringing an appropriate balance of accessibility to the public in all of its different forms," he said.

Utah's environmental policies have sometimes conflicted with those of the outdoor industry the state courts for economic development. The multi-million dollar Outdoor Retailer Expo left Salt Lake City for Denver in a highly-publicized spat over state political leaders' support of rescinding the Bears Ears National Monument.

Speaking to FOX 13, the governor said he would always welcome the trade show back -- but also said the state has moved on.

"We look forward, we’re not looking backward. The holes that it created have been filled and more," he said.

Others are working now to bridge divides. Doug Owens, the president of the newly created Utah Outdoor Partners, told FOX 13 his group seeks to highlight the economic advantages of conservation. Companies that aren't even connected to the outdoor industry look at it as a factor for relocating to Utah.

"Access to recreation opportunity was the second most important factor for fast growing businesses in Utah," Owens said. "It’s important for policy makers to understand that."

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said she was seeing outdoor and environmental groups engaging more with the Utah State Legislature.

"It’s one thing to talk about preservation but it’s action that counts," she said.