Utah’s national parks, state parks and ski resorts experienced record visitation in 2018. A new report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute says that visitors spent $1.2 billion in gateway communities near national parks and monument, and generated 18,700 jobs.
While the report highlights the importance of natural areas to Utah’s economy, it also implies a threat of overtourism exacerbated by lack of planning. In 2018, visitation to Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument surged by 17.8% to over a million visitors.
At the same time, the Trump administration has issued new plans that prioritize mining and grazing, including re-instating retired grazing leases along the Escalante River. In Bears Ears, the only visitor center is the Bears Ears Education Center set up by Friends of Cedar Mesa, a citizen conservation group founded by retired river ranger Mark Meloy.
In the absence of responsible planning, tourism can become yet another destructive land use. Combined with Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda of leasing and development, the tourism boom is a double whammy to Utah’s public lands.
The State of Utah’s Travel and Tourism Industry, 2018: gardner.utah.edu/wp-content/uploads/Travel-and-Tourism-Report-Nov2019.pdf
This is an excerpt from our December EnviroNews column. View the full article here.