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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Wednesday plans to create a state Office of Outdoor Recreation in an effort to manage one of Utah's most treasured assets.
The announcement came on the opening day of the Outdoor Retailer Convention at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City. Last summer, the Outdoor Industry Association, which hosts the show, urged the state to take a major stand to ensure the growth and success of the outdoor industry.
The new plan is laid out in a booklet that's only 59 pages long, but it outlines the importance of the outdoor recreation industry in Utah. For one thing, it's a huge economic driver in the state — generating about $6 billion every year and keeping 65,000 people employed.
Last year, the Outdoor Industry Association approached the governor and pointed out that while he has long-term economic plans for areas such as energy, hi-tech, aerospace and medicine, outdoor recreation was left off the list.
It will unify our efforts and optimize our ability in Utah to promote tourism, travel and outdoor recreation, appropriate utilization of our public lands and brings us together in that effort.
–Gov. Gary Herbert
"You know, it was a good idea then and a good idea today," said Herbert. "We ought to have, in fact, a plan going forth with goals and objectives that will bring people together in regards to outdoor recreation."
With that, the governor announced the creation of a new state Office of Outdoor Recreation, complete with a director and staff who will help implement the items outlined in the vision statement. In other words, with an industry so big and popular in our state, it must be included in Utah's long-term goals.
"It will unify our efforts and optimize our ability in Utah to promote tourism, travel and outdoor recreation, appropriate utilization of our public lands and brings us together in that effort," said Herbert.
The president and CEO of the Outdoor Industry Association, Frank Hugelmeyer, is happy with the plan.
"Outdoor recreation is essential to Utah's economic growth and its quality of life and that Utah's natural areas and recreational lands and assents are foundational to Utah's future," he said.
The governor said the vision document is not a "be-all, end-all," but more of a work in progress. There are many issues in the state regarding public lands that are, at times, contentious, but the plan at least gives a direction on how to address those concerns.
"Our hope is right now that the great leadership that Utah is showing is going to be mimicked in other states around the country," said Hugelmeyer. "It will create a greater, healthier nation and inspire more people to get active in the outdoors."