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Conservation Group Introduces Pro-Public Land Billboard Campaign

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Aaron Weiss
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Members of the Center for Western Priority will place billboards like this in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada.

 

A conservation group has announced billboards are being placed in several states to highlight the consequences of state efforts to seize public lands. Organizers claim a Utah Office of Tourism campaign touts the state’s public lands without mentioning what could happen to those lands without federal funding.  

Utah is home to five national parks, scenic byways and backways in the country. In the most recent Utah Tourism campaign, the state refers to those parks as Utah’s Mighty Five and has placed print, video and billboard advertisements to encourage outsiders to travel the Road to Mighty. Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Arches National Park near Moab are all featured in the ad.

 “Moab is full. It’s time to spread it out and that’s what the Road to Mighty is all about,” said Jennifer Rokala, the executive director of the Center for Western Priorities. “But we want to make sure that if the Road to Mighty ad campaign succeeds that there will actually be public lands and recreation assets throughout the state that people will be able to visit.”

The Center for Western Priorities announced Monday it will place billboards in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada as part of their U-Turn Utah campaign to educate the public about plans by Utah lawmakers to spend taxpayers’ money in a battle with the federal government over public land ownership.

 

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Credit Aaron Weiss
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One of the organization's billboards found in Denver.

 “It is going to be a problem if they continue to take funds that could be used for recreation infrastructure and all the other pieces that we need,” Rokala said. “If this chit chat continues about spending money to take the lands away from recreation, why should other recreation-related businesses come here?”

  Brad Petersen, a former director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, said rather than spend $14 million on a lawsuit affecting 31 million acres of national land within Utah, state lawmakers should spend the money building upon Utah’s $12 billion outdoor recreation economy.

“I would rather take that $14 million and let’s go invest it in additional recreational aspects,” Petersen said. “Let’s look at building new trails and new campsites but there are plenty of opportunities for us to go and expand our recreational opportunities in Utah to promote and advance what we currently have.”

Both Petersen and Rokala said the U-Turn Utah campaign targets outdoor recreationalists and policymakers to support the 2,100 federal employees who manage Utah’s public lands. The group also questions how the state will find a way to maintain services on those lands at an estimated cost of $280 million.