Citing the billions of dollars outdoor recreation and tourism bring to the Arizona economy every year, a coalition of more than 30 major outdoor businesses wrote a letter asking President Barack Obama to designate the proposed Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument before he leaves office in January.
The crux of the coalition's plea:
"Protected public lands form the bedrock of our industry. Simply put, safeguarding these public lands and waters is crucial to our economy, health and communities. This is the Grand Canyon. It is sacred to Native Americans and treasured by all Americans. What we allow to happen here will determine what happens across the American West. If we are not willing to protect the Grand Canyon, then what great landscape are we willing to protect in this nation?"
The participating companies include Patagonia, R.E.I., the North Face, Clif Bar and Company, Adidas, Keen, Chaco, Klean Kanteen, and Mountain Hardware. (See below for the full list of signatories.)
According to figures cited in the letter, the outdoor industry "supports more than six million American jobs, generates $646 billion in direct consumer spending and contributes $80 billion in federal, state and local taxes. In Arizona alone, outdoor recreation generates $10.6 billion in consumer spending, 104,000 jobs, $3.3 billion in wages and salaries and $787 million in state and local tax revenue."
These figures are significant because one of the big arguments cited by critics of the monument, including Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, is that it will have a negative impact on the local economy. Gosar, who did not respond to a request for comment for this story, has frequently called the monument a job killer and said it will hurt businesses and workers in northern Arizona.
The point these companies are making is that outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting — none of which the monument proposal will affect – are part of a huge industry that creates a lot of jobs and brings an enormous amount of revenue to the area.
"In 2015, 5.5 million people visited Grand Canyon National Park, spending $584 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 8,897 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $813 million," the letter states.
As New Times reported last year, an independent study by the economic consulting firm BBC Research and Consulting concluded that the monument would bring $51 million in revenue to the northern Arizona economy every year.
About $15.6 million of that is projected to come from out-of-state visitors who'd be spending money not only on outdoor recreation activities, but also on food, lodging, and other amenities in the region, according to the study.
The economists made their projections by analyzing the economic changes that occurred in other areas of the country following a national monument designation.
Mollie Fitzpatrick, a BBC employee who worked on the study, explained to New Times that her firm determined that the 1.7 million acres of land potentially slated for the monument currently supports 416 jobs. Most of these jobs are in tourism, federal and state governments, the forestry industry, and the mining industry, and none are expected to be lost if the monument were created.
In fact, Fitzpatrick told New Times, there's a good chance that more jobs — and revenue — would be created, because a national monument is a tourism draw.
While Gosar repeatedly says the monument would kill forestry and mining jobs and take away the right to hunt, there is no evidence to support any of those claims.
The proposed Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument would protect 1.7 million acres of the ecologically fragile Grand Canyon watershed and safeguard important tribal antiquities and culturally significant areas. It would also make the temporary moratorium on uranium mining in the area permanent, and give local tribes more of a say in how the area is managed.
As the coalition's letter puts it:
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"This is the Grand Canyon, a place renowned and revered by people who have lived along its canyon walls for centuries and by the millions who travel to experience this, the crown jewel of our national parks. This magnificent landscape deserves protection for its cultural significance, for its importance as a clean water source, and for its outstanding recreation value that directly benefit communities in the region and beyond."
Signatories of the letter:
The North Face
Clif Bar and Company
Ibex Outdoor Clothing
Toad & Co
Read the full letter sent to President Obama: