Tomorrow, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is due to deliver his recommendations to President Trump on the fate of 27 national monuments. Those recommendations will likely include the reduction of some of the boundaries on our precious public lands.
This is a vulnerable time for our public lands. These lands are the crown jewels, and the heart, of our country. They are revered by most Americans, regardless of political affiliation. In a 2016 survey, professors from Colorado State University and Harvard Kennedy School found nearly 95% of Americans believed protecting national parks and historical sites was important for current and future generations to enjoy. In addition, 80% stated they would pay higher federal taxes to ensure the protection and preservation of the National Park System. Yet, it would come as no surprise if President Trump decides to rescind or drastically scale back some designated public land during his term in office.
Now is more important than ever for us to come together, to support and advance a common agenda for outdoor recreation and the conservation of public lands. There are great people and organizations making impressive efforts to protect public lands, but they often operate independently. With today’s complex political backdrop and the current administration’s threats against the preservation and protection of our public lands, we need a combined movement—and we need you to be part of it.
The third annual SHIFT festival, taking place this November in Jackson, Wyo., will bring together stakeholders from the outdoor recreation, cultural relevancy, conservation and land-management communities—and you—for three days of gatherings, conversation and working sessions to protect public lands. The theme for this year’s festival is “The Business Case for Public Lands.” We will be highlighting and coalescing the power and reach of the outdoor recreation economy to protect America’s public lands legacy.
The facts are clear: Investments in outdoor recreation and the conservation of public lands are economic engines, creating vibrant, resilient economies in communities around America. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs each year. Headwaters Economics’ research indicates that “rural counties in the West with more federal lands or protected federal lands perform better on average than their peers with less federal lands or protected federal lands in key economic measures.”
But it’s not just rural communities that reap the strong economic benefits of public space and outdoor recreation. The American Planning Association and The Trust for Public Lands have found that parks, trails, and open spaces enhance property values, attract knowledge workers, generate health care cost savings, and support opportunities for economic development. From city parks to national monuments and protected waterfronts, the benefits to all communities are extraordinary.
At this year’s SHIFT, the economic argument for public lands will be focused on three major topics, each with a core issue for discussion. We will look at Closing the Nature Gap: how access to public lands in urban areas supports economic prosperity, healthy citizens and the next generation of stewards. We will explore Community Futures: how investments in outdoor recreation and conservation of public lands in rural America create vibrant, resilient communities. Finally, we’ll make The Economic Case: how we can use the economic power of outdoor recreation and public lands to influence federal, state and local decisions.
In addition to these critical discussions, The SHIFT Festival is pleased to feature:
From November 1-3 in the birthplace of the country’s first national park, add your voice to the conversation as we make the business case for land protection. Join the coalition of outdoor recreationists, land managers, conservationists and cultural relevancy advocates at the front lines of America’s public lands battle.
We’ve taken everything we’ve learned the past few years and put it into this year’s SHIFT. If ever there was a time to fight for public lands, it’s now.