To: Governor Gary Herbert

From: Resident Brody Leven

Dear Gov. Herbert,

Do you remember inviting me into your house? A 21-year-old student body president at Westminster College, I ate dinner at your table. My move to Utah for its landscape and higher education, you said, was what the state needed. I remember you taking ownership of what attracted me to Utah. You were confident I’d stick around.

Eight years have passed, and you were right. I’ve made Utah my home. My generation and I start businesses and families. We’re qualified applicants filling job vacancies and innovating for Utah, humanity, and the planet, adding to Utah’s youthful reputation and decidedly healthy economy. We’re building on a foundation for a progressive future when our healthy state welcomes everyone and celebrates diversity and opportunity. We recruit with our “work hard, play hard” ethos, best represented by access to nationally-managed public lands. Hiking foothills, biking downtown, or working long hours at start-ups, we’re proud of where we live and the version of Utah we help shape. We are voters.

Your decisions represent the views of a shrinking population and reality. This is not the religiously-dominated state of generations past; it’s a diverse community of students, farmers, refugees, and locals. If we don’t vote strictly upon Republican party lines, you aren’t representative. Your funding or party loyalty has blinded you to your job.

A preference for short-term profit over long-term prosperity is indicated by your desire to manage, parcel, and likely lease public lands. Over 143,000 Utahans work in the tourism industry under siege by these actions. Outdoor Retailer spoke out against this, and instead of defending public lands, you watched the $887 billion industry’s trade show leave, harming local industries and sacrificing our position as the national hub of outdoor recreation.

When the Outdoor Industry Association publicly states “It is clear that the government indeed has a different perspective of the protections of public lands from … the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats — that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses,” I implore you to listen. Your defiance of public land protection drove the industry’s respect for Utah elsewhere. Less than a decade after being welcomed into your home, I feel betrayed.

In your February Tribune op-ed, you wrote, “We love the opportunities [public lands] create for solitude and recreation,” followed by, “this spirited debate demonstrates…that there are still many unanswered questions about the best way to care for and manage our resources.”

As a young girl in Jason Chaffetz’s winter town hall said, we believe in science. There is no debate about anthropogenic climate change’s veracity or whether access is threatened by state-managed public lands.

Like access to public lands, clean air is an issue of public health and shouldn’t be partisan. According to FOX News, Salt Lake City’s air is the country’s worst. Utah is our home and your inaction is pushing us away. People move elsewhere because they hate our smog, and businesses want to leave here because your actions are in contrast to their morals.

Without protecting your constituents’ wellness, you’re taking away Utah’s renewed reality. The economics are clear: The future of our energy and jobs doesn’t include outdated technology, fuel, and ideals. The outdoor economy in Utah employs 110,000 people; its coal mines employ 1,605.

This is about more than Bear’s Ears National Monument, a trade show or my job as a skier. This is about our entrusting you to protect our values and health and your failure to do so.

Like Outdoor Retailer, I can live anywhere I choose. The Utah I love is acutely under siege by you. We request policies that provide clean air, keep public lands public, and encourage diversity. We ask for policies that lead to the prosperity of our state and that align with the general conservation values of the outdoor industry. We want public lands, not coal mines.

Sincerely,

Brody Leven

Brody Leven is a professional adventure skier and storyteller based in downtown Salt Lake City. You can find more of his thoughts on brodyleven.com or @brodyleven.