Prosperity in the West Meeting - Strategies by Enviro Group for Southern Utah

First in a Series, By Toni Thayer

February 17, 2005

Published by Garfield County News

P. O. Box 227, Escalante, UT 84726

The Sonoran Institute (SI), a rich Arizona nonprofit, will hold a meeting in Kanab on Thursday evening, Feb. 17, to inform the public of its findings which the group says "belie the old mythology that conservation is incompatible with economic prosperity."

Concepts to be presented at the meeting stem from SI's report "Prosperity in the 21st Century West," published in July 2004. The theory put forward is that protected lands "can and do play an important role in stimulating economic growth - and the more protected, the better."

According to Luther Propst, Executive Director for SI, the paper set out to answer three basic questions:

What is the relationship between management of public lands in the Western United States and the economic health of neighboring communities?

How has the conservation or industrialization of these lands influenced local economies?

What type of system could they develop to compare counties facing different economic conditions and opportunities?

The SI report states "that the West's competitive advantage in a global marketplace is its unique landscape and quality of life." On the other side of the coin, communities with economies based on traditional resource industries "like mining, oil and gas development and the wood products industry, turn out to have the slowest long-term growth rates."

The authors of the report conclude that communities in the West need particular assets to have vibrant economies: physical attractiveness and growth from newcomers like "retirees and people with investment earnings", access via airports and roads to metropolitan areas, and an educated local workforce. "Communities without these economic assets, in spite of being surrounded by spectacular scenery, tend to struggle."

Headquartered in Tucson, Ariz, SI has offices throughout its focus area which extends from Mexico north into Canada: Phoenix, Ariz.; Bozeman, Mont.; and Alberta, Canada. Some of SI's funders are: David Rockefeller Fund, Grand Canyon Trust, Environmental Defense, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilburforce Foundation, The Wyss Foundation, and the Federal government through the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

The Thursday meeting will be held at the Kanab Public Library from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and is sponsored by the Kanab Chamber of Commerce and the Kane County Office of Tourism.

Check back next week for our continuing coverage on this meeting and the players involved. Full Sonoran Institute report:

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