This blog has been cross-posted with permission from Public Lands Solutions.
Newly elected Grand County Council Member Mary McGann said it best in her recent Salt Lake Tribune column: “the Grand County elections were a vote for Moab’s economic future instead of the past.”
Election night was a clear win for our public lands and the recreation economy in Eastern Utah. Voters recognized that we don’t have to choose between protecting public lands that drive our local recreation economy and energy development. The truth is that we can have both, though it means hard work and making smarter choices from the start about where and how oil and gas development should take place.
When the Grand County Council decided to join the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition, it gave up local control to subsidize energy companies and projects that could actually harm our outdoor recreation economy. That just didn’t sit right with Moab voters and businesses that depend on a strong tourism and recreation economy. All three candidates that won on election night had taken a stand against the coalition’s ability to override local control and a stand for our outdoor recreation economy.
Moab was just one of many local victories that swept across the nation. According to the Trust for Public Lands, voters approved 26 ballot measures in 18 states that will provide nearly $13 billion in funding for the public lands and recreation in last month’s elections. While there is lots of frustration with the federal government, people still treasure their federal lands. In our local elections where there was a clear vote on protecting our great outdoors and recreation opportunities, communities voted for our great outdoors.
Americans love our public lands and the opportunity to bike, climb, hike, camp, hunt, and fish on them. That love of the land also translates to real jobs and economic activity for local communities. Voters know and understand that value, and that’s why conservation won at the local level in Moab and so many other places across the U.S.
We’re optimistic about the future for Moab. Grand County voters sent a clear signal that the recreation industry is important. With new champions for our public lands and outdoor recreation economy on the council, we are hopeful that the interests of Moab’s local businesses will be heard.