National Parks, Other Federal Lands Generate Big Tourism Income For State Of Utah

How important are national parks, forests, and other federal lands in the economies of Western states? Data recently released in Utah offers a glimpse.

Here are some of the numbers provided by the Utah Office of Tourism:

* Utah’s cash registers rang up $7.4 billion in traveler spending last year.

* A total of about 127,781 Utahns were employed in tourism-related jobs statewide.

* According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, tourism is a key job creator in rural Utah counties, employing 41.9 percent percent of the workforce in Garfield County, 35.6 percent in Grand County and 32.8 percent in Kane County.

In addition to dollars that go into merchants' tills, visitors contributed about $960 million in state and local taxes in 2012. Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said, “This new capital infusion is used to fund education, build roads and improve the quality of life for every resident.”

It was especially interesting to note that income from taxes generated by tourism provided an estimated $1,076 in tax relief for each and every Utah family.

“The growth of Utah’s tourism industry over the past decade has improved rural economies, stimulated entrepreneurship and small business development, in turn, strengthening our rural communities," said Governor Gary Herbert.

A spokesman for his office also said, “As more visitors explore all corners of this great state, there is tremendous opportunity for economic development in Utah’s rural communities. We’re proud to be working closely with our partners at Governor’s Office of Economic Development to fulfill the governor’s initiative to bring lasting, sustainable jobs and economic development to all of Utah’s 29 counties.”

But there are still loud voices in Utah calling for “taking back” federal lands within the state.

2012, Utah tourism by the numbers:

• Travelers and tourists spent $7.4 billion in 2012, a 7.8 percent increase over 2011.

• Last year, domestic and international visitation climbed 6.4 percent, to 23.5 million.

• Travelers in 2012 contributed $960 million to state and local taxes, providing every Utah household with an estimated $1,076 tax relief.

• There are an estimated 127,781 tourism-related jobs statewide, a 3 percent increase from the year before.

• Utah’s five national parks – Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion – continue to draw visitors from around the world, topping 6.5 million visits in 2012.

• Utah’s 14 world-class ski resorts had more than 4 million skier days in 2012, up 6 percent from 2011.

Sources: Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, National Park Service, Ski Utah, D.K. Shifflett, Utah Office of Tourism, Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah

Six counties where tourism employs more than one quarter of the workforce:

* Garfield, which claims parts of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: 41.9 percent

* Summit, home to the Deer Valley, Park City, and Canyons ski resorts: 38.5 percent

* Grand, home to Arches National Park: 35.6 percent

* Kane, home to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, parts of Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, and part of Glen Canyon NRA, 32.8 percent

* Wayne, home to the bulk of Capitol Reef National Park, part of Canyonlands NP and part of Glen Canyon NRA: 29.3 percent

* Daggett, home to part of the Ashley National Forest, part of Flaming Gorge NRA: 28.9 percent

Source: Utah Department of Workforce Services


Salt Lake TV news reported tonight that Timpanogos Cave closed yesterday -- a month early. Sequestration.

This is a spappy & engaging writeup of a current-affairs story, Lee. A better job than the numerous professional efforts I've looked at in the MSM.

Of course, you still have to drag the unmentioned baggage chained to this story.

Which is, the happy news from Utah ain't a matter of having National Parks & Federal Lands. No; Utah's neighbors have/had much prettier landscapes, wonderous Parks, scads of Federally-designated sites & regions, and superior established name-recognition.

Utah is basically the backward brine-pit of the Western North America outdoor recreation industry. Others surrounding it have been running circles around them with winter sports venues, river adventures, animal viewing and diverse fun & games, for generations.

This is a come-from-behind-story, in which the hick doofus is eating the big-kids lunch ... with very little, objectively, to account for the surprise turn of affairs.

Oh look! Utah has Parks! They're killin' 'em! Okay ...

Actually, back a couple-few decades ago, the Mormon juggernaut saw that it was time to shift some of their global expansion efforts back to the home-turf, and build-up Utah itself. Instead of the Philippines, Brazil, England, etc

So they went after the Winter Olympics, and got it. 2002. And they didn't let off on the gas. 9/11, Weapons of Mass Destruction, sudden sky-high fuel prices, and the onset of the deepest & longest economic setback since the Great Depression .... they didn't let nuthin' throw 'em.

For generations, while The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints focused on conquering the world, it's neighbors & competitors took the Mormons, their church and Utah as a buncha dorks. That was never, at any time, anything other than a grave mistake.

Save your notes & refs, Lee. This is one of those stories that will just keep on giving.

Great news, since Utah is gaining so much benefit, we can cut federel funding and let Utah and its local citizens and businesses fund the parks there.

Ted, I trust you're being a tad sarcastic. The river-running industry practically was born in Utah. And I haven't seen quite the collection of red-rock wonders -- Canyonlands or Arches, anyone?--- in the neighboring states that Utah has.

Religious views aside, quite a few businesses saw the wonders of Utah and realized it would be a great state to call home. Black In fact, more than 1,000 outdoor-related companies.

Did Utah perhaps come a bit late to promoting its in-state wonders to these companies? Perhaps. But I certainly wouldn't call it backwards....

And ec, as you know, take the "national park, monument, site" designation off a place, and its lure, and economic clout, plummets.

Kurt, I could not agree more. Utah is one of the best state for parks and if it were not for the parks I would probably would not venture there.

"Ted, I trust you're being a tad sarcastic."

A tad. Some dark humor. A smudge of irreverent blackface.

"[Q]uite a few businesses saw the wonders of Utah and realized it would be a great state to call home.

"Quite a few"? [cough]. Forbes recently ranked Utah #1 out of the 50 United States, for businesses, and for business careers. This national-level superlative is not an isolated case, for Utah.

So ... is the Parks golden egg a matter of Federal control of scenic assets in Utah .... or is this one egg among Utah's eye-popping clutch of such eggs, actually a reflection of their own skill-set?

Although, yes of course, Utah does have certain specific "unique" natural attractions, so too all of its neighbor-states also possess their own "unique" destinations, which they each alone can offer. And its neighbors likewise have truly magnificent natural grandeur (under extensive Federal purview), and genuinely inspirational & awesome National Parks.

If it works this way for Utah ('Have the Parks, and They Will Come') .... why hasn't it worked the same for its neighbors? Well ... because they're not Utah. They lack the culture acumen; a cultural-competence, stemming directly from religious values, and Church-authority.


[I think Utah won the 2002 Winter Olympics, in like '95. The competition of course stretched quite a few years, previously. The point at which Utah (sic) decided to go after the Big Splash, marks the point at which the state-wide transition to its contemporary gung-ho dynamic began. I will say, early-to-mid '80s. The recognition that it was 'time for a change', had arisen earlier, no later than sometime in the 1970s.

This was a coordinated effort, involving diffuse cultural communities, formal Church hierarchy (who do not tell or direct civil society, but are hugely influential, nonetheless), and state government (which to this day remains disproportionally LDS, 'way beyond the population-stats).

The outdoor recreation & tourism push, dates back to the beginning of the 3rd quarter of the 20th C, and was initiated in conjunction with a broad front of other policy-innovations, all serving the same ends & motivations ... all driven by the same set of closely-integrated forces.]

Actually, I believe the state started thinking Winter Games in the '60s...I followed the whole 2002 Games in articles for a number of outlets, and I seem to recall that date. For what it's worth, I believe there's a desire to bid for another Games.

As for Utah luring businesses, my point was the business that came to be closer to the scenic wonders, not necesssarily first and foremost for the tax breaks...

Utah's scenic wonders go beyond the national parks and other federal lands to the ski resorts and gorgeous state parks. And yes, the neighbors have their own unique landscapes that no doubt generate incredible windfalls from tourists.

as you know, take the "national park, monument, site" designation off a place, and its lure, and economic clout, plummets.

Don't know that I do know that... examples?

But that makes it even better. Get the state to pay the NPS for the label and pay to maintain the park. If the value is truly there, they should be more than willing to pay. Or maybe we should label Detroit a National Park and watch the miracles turn around occur.

Or maybe we should label Detroit a National Park and watch the miracles turn around occur.

So utterly nonsensical . . .

Great piece, Lee. Really looking forward to backpacking through the Utah parks next spring.

Kurt Repanshek on September 24, 2013 - 2:16pm says:

"For what it's worth, I believe there's a desire to bid for another Games."

Ah yes. A quick search using 'utah olympic bid' produces a page of reports. Utah announced their interest in the 2026 event, last December. ESPN called it a "longshot", others picked up the term. IOC has not yet said whether the USOC will even have the option then ... decision not yet made.

Other suitors, Nevada, Reno et al especially, chimed into, position themselves as competitors.

Deseret News has an "Olympics" category, and they put up 2 articles, both cursory 'yawners'. Salt Lake Trib may go with a different angle...

So yeah, there is that alright ... though lo-ball at this point, it is a window on Utah's 'game'.

Author Lee Dalton, in the original Post, included the Gov rep's quote:

" "We’re proud to be working closely with our partners at Governor’s Office of Economic Development to fulfill the governor’s initiative to bring lasting, sustainable jobs and economic development to all of Utah’s 29 counties." "

This may not be a throwaway line, people.

It could indicate, that actually the State has passed Legislation, made Constitutional Amendments, etc, cracking the whip over the counties' heads. "Get in line, boys! Let's have your shoulder into it, now!".

There have been several such 'State take-overs' of their counties, in recent times. Washington did it, with their Growth Management Act .... which is a thinly-veiled cooptation of ... as much of the state as they could successfully grab, in pursuit of A Greater Future, for the Seattle metropolis. [California pioneered this in a big way, in former eras, esp. for water. They tried, even for the Columbia River.]

Court action has ensued, in some cases like this, nationally. WA was successful, only in commandeering the western counties. The action seriously deepened & cemented an historic schism, with the WA eastern counties ... probably damaging the long-term urbia dream. Modifications & concessions have been necessary. Still, counties must bow to the City .... under cover/proxy of a State initiative.

[The WA GMA weighs importantly into the Elwha Dams Removal project. "Active" stakeholders in this adventure, have goals in conflict with the Urban Metropolis' (an "inactive" stakeholder) goals & interests, for the Olympic Peninsula. There is a "tension" in Seattle coverage, explained by this carefully unacknowledged reality.)

In WA, it was actually the old "Urban League", a cabal of private big-city power-hitters & biz-interests, who pushed for this thing. [This action dates back to the same Post War context in which Utah started thinking about changes; groundwork traceable into the '60s.]

We should be aware, that the "all of Utah’s 29 counties" language definitely could signify essential realities in play. In Utah, I'm going to say that the power-cabal has a better-than-usual chance of pulling it off, without rebellion ... but in fact, this sort of "usurpation" has led to historic rebellions.

States can't just arbitrarily up & take over Counties, just because they think they have a nifty plan that everybody has to get onboard with, in order to make it work. No more than the Fed can just waltz into State affairs and take over ... so this could ultimately be an unadvertised fault-line, in the grand Utah plan.

[I have an "away" workday today. See ya tonight.]