Recreationists, young people, local citizens and conservationists all came out to support Utah’s public lands on August 3rd in Salt Lake City as part of America’s Great Outdoors. The listening session -- hosted by Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley; and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey -- was attended by roughly 300 people who spoke about their conservation ideas for Utah.
The listening session followed an Outdoor Retailer trade show, which was attended by thousands recreation enthusiasts, business owners and administration officials. Peter Metcalf, CEO of the outdoor gear vendor Black Diamond Equipment, attended the event and expressed his views about the economic need to protect our public lands in an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune.
The Wilderness Society wants to see large natural areas protected. In Utah, there are already several initiatives underway to protect our shared public lands:
The Washington County Growth and Conservation Act created the 62,000-acre Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and 78,000-acre Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area and newly-designated Wilderness areas around the growing community of St. George. Management for all of the public lands in Washington County is currently being developed. This is a real chance to showcase all of the benefits highlighted in the public lands bill that came from the combined vision of county commissioners, conservation organizations, and local citizens.
The Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act would provide valuable protections to the watershed that provides municipal water to over a half-million residents of Salt Lake City while maintaining access for backcountry skiing. The proposal is supported by local governments, recreation interests, and local conservation organizations.
Permanent protection of the Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa Plateau as Wilderness will protect an unsurpassed primitive outdoor museum of rich cultural resources and spectacular geology containing deep twisting canyons, alcoves and natural bridges – along with one of the most significant archeological landscape in the west.
Wilderness designation for vast San Rafael Swell in southeastern Utah would protect this unique and spectacular geological region which supports a wide array of rare plants and wildlife, including the big horn sheep, antelope, bald eagles, pronghorn, peregrine falcon and Utah prairie dogs. The Swell is also a popular destination for hikers, river runners, hunters, horseback riders, and climbers.
You can tell President Obama to protect these special places at their “virtual listening session” here.
Photo: Beaver Dam, Washington National Conservation Area. Photo by Ray Bloxham/SUWA