If we learn any lesson from this debacle of a government shutdown, I hope it’s that national parks and other public lands are of greater daily benefit to Utahns than the rhetoric of the state Legislature’s sagebrush rebels and our own members of Congress would ever acknowledge.
At Black Diamond, we’ve long realized the substantial positive impact that national parks and other federally protected public lands have on our company and others like us. As Utah Gov. Gary Herbert finally admitted, the national parks are actually "the backbone of many rural economies."
When the shutdown hit national parks, several Utah counties went so far as to declare a state of emergency, despite the fact that many of these county officials never miss an opportunity to criticize the parks when they’re open.
That’s because it became painfully clear even to them that the public lands we have in Utah are one of the best things we have going — in fact, it’s why I located my company here in the first place, and I know many Utah small businesses who would say the same.
For the sake of those businesses, we’re glad that the parks were temporarily reopened with state funds to ease the pain of this unnecessary shutdown and to welcome the thousands of weekly visitors that flock to our five national parks, our national monuments and our other public lands. But it is undeniable that this Band-aid would not even have needed application if Utah’s own Sen. Mike Lee and other representatives had not instigated the government shutdown in the first place.
This kind of grandstanding is not harmful in the abstract — it’s harmful to real people. Real people, it turns out, who live in Utah and depend on public lands for their very livelihoods.
If allowed to function, the federal agencies that manage these lands are more than capable of facilitating this vital sector of the economy. And if they’re not — well, you just witnessed it. I think "devastating," was the word used by Gov. Herbert.
The truth is we Utahns are the lucky beneficiaries of an amazing bargain: We reap not only the economic windfall that these parks and other federally protected lands provide, but also the quality-of-life benefits that come with a backyard that is famous the world over. And the rest of our fellow Americans help us pay for it all — that is, if Sen. Lee and his friends don’t shut down their payments. It costs $50,000 a day just to fund Zion National Park alone.
The state of Utah couldn’t afford that over the long term. You can bet that if the Utah’s pipe dream of permanently managing these lands were to come true, the result would be disastrous. Utah has had enough trouble funding its own state parks, the size, complexity and responsibility of which do not begin to compare with the responsibility of managing the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service areas we have in Utah.
(That’s leaving aside the fact that attempting to seize these lands constitutes outright theft from the rest of the country.)
That’s why the state of Utah’s ludicrous land grab must stop. It’s appalling. Frivolous lawsuits over roads on public lands must stop. The anti-federal posturing must stop. If the governor and Utah’s congressional representatives are serious about supporting businesses and the local economy, then it’s time they stop biting the hand that feeds them.
Peter Metcalf is CEO, president & co-founder of Black Diamond Inc.
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