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Utah No. 1 for money and jobs gained from public lands

Utah No. 1 for money and jobs gained from public lands

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WASHINGTON — Utah's vast public lands may be a thorn of contention for its conservative lawmakers, but a new report shows the state is No. 1 in the nation to benefit from rural jobs and services created by Department of Interior-managed lands.

Public lands supported more than 20,000 jobs and contributed $1.7 billion in economic output in 2010.

Overall, the report released by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar shows those lands supported more than 20,000 jobs and contributed $1.7 billion in economic output in 2010.

Gov. Gary Herbert immediately praised the findings in the report, stressing that Utah's diverse geological landscapes help the state build upon a divergent economic base.

"One of the key reasons Utah is leading the nation out of the recession is the diversity of our economy," Herbert said. "Outdoor recreation is one of our seven key economic clusters or areas of focus. This report confirms that the multiple use of our public lands is beneficial in many ways.”

Across the country, the Interior Department's role in the U.S. economy supported more than 2 million jobs and stoked $363 billion in economic activity last year.

Details of those activities — from grazing to mineral extraction or wildlife watching and visits to national parks — are detailed in the report, The Department of Interior's Economic Contributions.

“Usually, the value of Interior’s programs and activities are measured by the type of services we provide the American people, whether conserving a landscape, containing a wildfire, facilitating energy development on public lands or welcoming the public to a national park or wildlife refuge,” Salazar said. “This report demonstrates that the department also creates and supports private sector jobs and economic growth in Utah and all the states and underscores how investing in areas such as recreation, conservation and energy development can play an important role in getting our economy moving again.”

Among the report's findings:

  • More than 21 million people visited Interior recreation sites in Utah in 2010.
  • Recreation on Interior-managed lands is estimated to support about 20,000 jobs.
  • Visitation to Interior sites supports about 15,000 jobs in rural areas of Utah.

One Utah area highlighted in the report is BLM-lands around Moab and Arches National Park, which attracted 2. 3 million visits in fiscal year 2010. The report estimates visitors from out of town spent a little more than $269 million and supported nearly 4,000 jobs.

In that same time period, the Interior Department supported 27,741 jobs from energy and mineral development on its managed lands in Utah.

The report was released the same day Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah was to have a private sit-down with the national BLM director Bob Abbey and the Interior Department's Deputy Secretary David Hayes over Salazar's decision to not go forward with his controversial Secretarial Order No. 3310, or the Wild Lands Policy.

Administration of that program was de-funded with the congressional passage of the Continuing Budget Resolution, but suspicious critics of the Interior Department want clarification over Salazar's next moves when it comes to new wilderness designations.

Afterward, Bishop said he was encouraged by the meeting and that Abbey and Hayes "reiterated that Secretarial Order No. 3310 is dead. They both assured me that no administrative action will be taken to designate wild lands now or any time after fiscal year 2011."

Amy Joi O'Donoghue


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