Public Land Solutions Whitepaper Highlights Economic Potential for Bears Ears National Monument
Paper, released today, emphasizes local partnerships as way forward
Today, Public Land Solutions released a new white paper detailing the potential economic benefits of cultural tourism around the recently-designated Bears Ears National Monument. The report draws on research and case studies from other areas in the American West that have taken a pro-active approach to cultural tourism on public land as an economic driver through county and stakeholder strategic planning.
“Outdoor recreation on public land is a powerful economic driver for Utah. While other parts of the state have been able to diversify their economies by attracting visitors and businesses that value the state’s recreation assets and world class landscapes, San Juan County’s economy has not seen the full benefits,” said report co-author Ashley Korenblat, CEO of Western Spirit Cycling in Moab, UT, and Managing Director at Public Land Solutions. “The conversation about the Bears Ears National Monument is already increasing visitation to the region, which will continue to grow. The question is: how can local stakeholders and county government control and direct that growth to maximize benefits to local residents?”
The report emphasizes that in order to harness the potential of the monument and its affect on residents, San Juan County officials and stakeholders should take the opportunity not only to provide input throughout the land management planning process that will be led by the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, but should also consider developing their own complementary economic plan. This plan would focus on issues such as community zoning guidance, hotel and restaurant needs, and make recommendations on the number of visitors the communities in the region can accommodate.
Within the report are several case studies of communities that have done just that. Leavenworth, Washington, is one of several examples that argue for the effectiveness of this parallel planning approach. When the railroad business left this mountainous region of central Washington, residents took advantage of the natural “Bavarian” beauty of their alpine setting to think more strategically about how to benefit from nearby public lands. And in Medora, North Dakota, residents have been promoting the 100-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail that accommodates hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, near the adjacent Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In these cases and others, communities with strategic economic plans have seen boosts in their popularity and economic output that have contributed to long-term growth in their respective regions.
San Juan County has many comparable, and in fact more advantageous, attributes that make it possible for it to follow a similar strategy: the region is deeply valued by the 5 tribes of The Bears Ears Tribal Coalition, it contains majestic canyons, rivers and mountains that provide world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, including rock climbing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, and whitewater rafting. It is also filled with abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, and ceremonial sites, including The Cedar Mesa region, which holds one of the largest concentrations of preserved archaeological resources in the world.
“The people of San Juan County have an unprecedented opportunity to shape their economic destiny by determining what type of visitors and residents they wish to attract—and where they want visitors to go,” said Public Land Solutions Managing Director and report co-author Jason Keith. “Growth in the region is inevitable, and San Juan County is well-positioned to utilize its rich cultural history and fascinating landscapes to create a well-planned future of its own making.”
The whitepaper can be viewed online here: https://publiclandsolutions.org/paper/